When environmental and soil chemist Baoshan Xing at the University of Massachusetts Amherst began reading in 2014 that a new, two-dimensional material known as layered black phosphorous (BP) was gaining the attention of biomedical researchers for use in drug delivery systems and tumor photothermal therapy, he was both intrigued and concerned.

“I am not only a soil chemist, but an environmental chemist,” he notes. “As agricultural scientists, we are very familiar with phosphorous but I had never heard of two-dimensional black phosphorous. So we read all the nice papers about black phosphorous, and then, as environmental chemists, we started asking about nanoparticle toxicity. You have to be careful where you put such materials in the human body.”

In a recent cover story of the journal Small (“Size Effect on the Cytotoxicity of Layered Black Phosphorus and Underlying Mechanisms”), his former postdoctoral fellow, Qing Zhao, currently a professor at the Institute of Applied Ecology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and Xing report toxicity test results for different thicknesses of layered BP in three cell lines. Briefly, they found disruption of cell membrane integrity related to layered BP particle size, plus concentration- and cell-type-dependent cytotoxicity.

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Image Credit:   UMass Amherst/Baoshan Xing

 

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