Pamela Bond's Blog

Nanoparticles: Do they belong in natural products?

I had been wondering about the promises and pitfalls of nanotechnology, which involves manipulating particles that are tens of thousands times smaller than the width of a single strand of human hair, when two new studies appeared in my inbox, each taking a side.

In case you haven’t heard, nanoparticles are being studied in medicine, where they may help in the delivery of drugs against cancer and other diseases. They also are being used in supplements and cosmetics, even natural ones. For example, Burt’s Bees Chemical-Free Sunscreen uses micronized ingredients, according to The Project for Emerging Technologies, a site dedicated to discussing nanotechnology issues and providing a searchable database of nanotechnology-based consumer products.

Today’s research highlights the confusion over the new technology. On one hand, scientists from the University of Bristol just discovered that nanoparticles can damage the DNA of cells that they don’t even penetrate. The nanoparticles didn't pass through the multi-layer cell wall to cause the damage, but instead generated signaling molecules that were then transmitted to cells on the other side. Creepy?

On the other hand, researchers from Japan recently found that nano-sized curcumin capsules may boost the body’s uptake of the ingredient, and enhance its potential to prevent colon cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. Cool?

What do you think of this emerging technology that has already penetrated natural products stores, sometimes without you or your customers knowing it? Do you think nanotechnology’s benefits outweigh its risks? Should the technology be used to develop natural products? What do you hear from customers? Should the government require labels on nanotech products and call for industry standardization?

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