Safety of Nanosized Mineral Supplements

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This program is part of the Swiss National Science foundation National Research Program concerning opportunities and risks of nanomaterials.

Treating Iron Deficiency with Iron Nanoparticles: Safety Concerns

Iron deficiency anemia is the most common micronutrient deficiency worldwide, and is a major cause of morbidity and mortality in both developed and industrialized countries. Addition of iron to foods can be an effective and sustainable strategy to combat iron deficiency.

In work pioneered by the ETH Zurich laboratory of Human Nutrition led by Prof. Michael Zimmerman, together with the ETH Zurich Particle Technology lab of Sotiris Pratsinis, it has been discovered that nanosizing iron compounds sharply increases their absorption and bioavailability, and nanosized iron is color-stable in sensitive food matrices. The safety of these iron nanoparticles and their mechanism of absorption through the gut is poorly understood, however. We are working together with the Zimmerman and Pratsinis labs to elucidate the relationships between size and physical characteristics of iron nanoparticles and the nature of their interactions with human gut cells.


This project, "Gastrointestinal exposure to nanoscale iron compounds in foods: absorptive pathways and potential toxicity," has three aims:

  • Explore the relationship between NP
    size and composition to toxicity in cell assays.
  • Assess absorptive pathway of iron
    nanoparticles in a targeted duodenal KO DMT1 mouse model.
  • Characterize in-vivo toxicity of nanosized
    iron in the gut.


Von Moos LM, Schneider M, Hilty FM, Hilbe M, Arnold M, Ziegler N, Mato DS, Winkler H, Tarik M, Ludwig C, Naegeli H, Langhans W, Zimmermann MB, Sturla SJ, Trantakis IA, Iron phosphate nanoparticles for food fortification: Biological effects in rats and human cell lines, Nanotoxicology, 2017 Apr 20:1-11. doi: 10.1080/17435390.2017.1314035. [Epub ahead of print]


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Tue Jun 27 03:42:12 CEST 2017
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