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MTA Prof Receives CFI $ To Establish A Nanotoxicology Facility

Mount Allison University biochemistry professor Dr. Tyson MacCormack is leading a new study examining how every day products we use are affecting fish and the environment. MacCormack has received research funding through the Canadian Foundation for Innovation’s (CFI) John R. Evans Leaders Fund.

MacCormack’s lab studies nanoparticles and will be working to better understand their biological and environmental impact, particularly in aquatic environments. Nanoparticles are synthetic materials. Their small size and tunable characteristics give them unique properties and they are widely used in many commercial and medical applications.

“Because of their multiple uses and properties, nanoparticles are now in many products we use every day,” explains MacCormack. “One product we’ve seen visibly change over the past few years as a result of this is sunscreen. You use to be able to see zinc oxide as a white paste when people applied it for sun protection. Now, with the addition of nanoparticles, sunscreen is not visible when applied. This type of technology has been used in many cosmetic, pharmaceutical, and even food products.”

While nanoparticles have their benefits, little research has been done on the environmental impacts of these materials. MacCormack and his team, including several Mount Allison students, are hoping to change that.

With the help of the CFI funding, MacCormack will examine how nanoparticles affect the cardiovascular functions and energy metabolism of local fish and assess the impact that nanoparticles may have on aquatic ecosystems.

“Nanoparticles are now being released into the environment in significant quantities, and have unique properties compared to chemicals traditionally used in consumer products,” says MacCormack. “We are hoping to test for nanomaterial toxicity in fish, determine what nanoparticle characteristics lead to these effects and what it means for our aquatic environments.”

MacCormack’s research will partner with many other research projects on the Mount Allison campus including work done by Dr. Suzie Currie, Research Chair in Aquatic Animal Physiology and biology professor; biology professor Dr. Matt Litvak, who studies local fish populations; and chemistry professor Dr. Vicki Meli, who studies the self-assembly of nanoparticles into surface patterns that are useful in a variety of materials applications. 

MacCormack and his research team will conduct most of their studies in the field and in Mount Allison’s Harold Crabtree Aqualab: Centre for Aquatic Sciences.

The announcement was made as part of a national CFI announcement on January 8.