Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Nanotechnology Professor Found Dead in the Laboratory

A prominent professor of nanotechnology and synthetic biology, Dr. Franco Cerrina, was found dead in his Boston University laboratory early in the morning of July 12, 2010. Dr. Cerrina’s work focused on nanotechnology, synthetic biology, lithography and biotechnology. Was his work dangerous? You bet it was.

What is nanotechnology? Why is it dangerous? Let’s review a bit….

Nanotechnology is still in its infancy. It is a science where scientists intend to build molecular structures one molecule at a time…from the bottom up…so to speak. It is an interdisciplinary science of the physical sciences, life sciences, computer informatics and engineering sciences. Nanotechnology is also part of synthetic biology where scientists intend to create synthetic life forms by designing and creating nano-biological machines and components and placing them inside cells.

Nanotechnology engages in building molecular structures and creating new materials at the nanometer level.

That size is very small. Building structures that are nanometers in size is comparable to 1 million times smaller than the head of a pin or about 2500 times smaller than a red blood cell. The size of a nanometer is about the size of the diameter of a DNA molecule.

The smallness of these nanoparticles makes them both beneficial and dangerous. Their potential benefit is in the ability to use this technology for medical and health sciences with potential to diagnose and cure disease. Nanotechnology also can be used in consumer goods making materials stronger and lighter or having other useful properties. They are already being used in clothing, paint, makeup and sunscreen. They are also being used in semi-conductor research with hopes of making electronics and computers better and faster.

The dangers of nanotechnology lie in the fact that nanoparticles can also unpredictably react with human life, other life and the environment causing harm…serious harm.

Nano- materials behave differently because they are so small compared to a larger or macro scale. They are under the influence of different physical forces…more toward quantum mechanics than gravity. This gives nano-particles different chemical and physical properties. Therefore, nanomaterials are more reactive and more bioactive. They can be toxic and cause cancer. They could be passed from mother to fetus. Nano-particles can exhibit other properties too. For example, copper loses its opaqueness and becomes transparent when produced on a nanoscale. Aluminum, stable at the macro level, becomes combustible when produced as a nano-particle.

Nanoparticles cause risk to humans since their size allows them to more easily cross the skin, lung or blood brain barrier.

Despite these obvious threats, scant research is being invested into nanotech health issues. The little research done has caused alarm. Fish exposed to nanoparticles have been found to have extensive brain damage. Nanoparticles have been found to accumulate in the bodies of lab animals which makes a link to possible food chain accumulation if nanoparticles are released into the environment. Nanoparticles called quantum dots can cause cadium poisoning in humans. Nano-particles have been found in the brain and lung tissues of rats exposed to nano-particles and subsequently caused inflammation and biochemical stress responses.

More concerning is that nanoparticles, because of their small size, could enter into the environment or life forms without detection.

Nanotechnology is big business. The government is funding it at $1.5 Billion per year and industry is adding another $8 Billion per year. There are about 1650 nanotechnology companies world wide with the majority located within the U.S.

Powerful economic forces and competition in the marketplace are taking precedence over safeguards when it comes to protecting workers and the public against the possible dangers of nanotechnology. This is causing some scientists and public to become concerned.

Dr. Franco Cerrina found dead within the laboratory raises questions regarding the cause of his death. Was it due to a work-related illness? It is very possible…but we most likely will never find out.


  1. Nanotechnology has already been released into the public. It's manifesting as many diseases but the one I know to exist is Morgellons. If you don't know about this disease, educate yourself. You can learn now when you're symptom free or be thrust into learning about nanotechnology and Morgellons by necessity after you get Morgellons, like I was. It's a harsh reality and don't kid yourself into thinking that nanotechnology doesn't affect you.

  2. watchdogonscienceJuly 15, 2010 at 4:51 AM

    Dear Anonymous,

    Yes, I am quite aware of Morgellons and the pain and suffering it has caused to tens of thousands of people here in the States. I am also quite aware of the cover-up of labeling this disease "delusional parasitosis" by many physicians. It is disgraceful.

    I cannot understand why this new emerging disease is not getting more press. The mysterious "synthetic" fibers that accompany the pox-like lesions in those who suffer with Morgellon's does demand us to question its origin…wondering if it is indeed it a product of biotech/nanotech. Perhaps that is why Morgellons disease is being kept under the radar of the American people.

    I am so sorry that you have succumbed to this illness. Have you found any doctor who will treat you? Is there any beneficial treatment available? Do antibiotics work at all?

  3. You are kidding right? Your lack of understanding on this issue is mind-boggling.

    First of all, Dr. Cerrina's death had nothing to do with his work, and there are no serious questions about his death. The fact that you would question it is deeply offensive to his memory and his family. That you would use his death as an argument against basic science shows your lack of understanding of the issues AND serious dishonesty on your part.

    You also say that "scant research is being invested into nanotech health issues." This is an additional bald-faced lie. Enormous numbers of studies are being done on exactly those issues, and to discount them out of your own uneducated fear is just stupid.

  4. Dear sciencebasedsex,

    I believe you misread my blog. I never stated that Dr. Cerrina’s death was caused by his research. In fact, the public knows nothing about the cause of his death other than he was found dead in the laboratory via the newspapers. But the public certainly questions the reason behind his death since nanotechnologies are known to be quite dangerous.

    In fact the public questions why there is so much secrecy within the scientific community regarding exposures and injuries to scientists. They even wonder about the dangerous technologies being used in BL2 laboratories in universities around the U.S.

    For example, Dr. Malcolm Casadaban who passed last year after a mysterious exposure to a genetically engineered microbe (plague vaccine) which caused his death at the Univ. of Chicago is just one example. His family struggles to obtain any more information from the university or any government agency regarding his death. The doors are slammed shut on them. Why the secrets? Why withhold from the public? Why especially withhold from the grieving family?

    Hmmm. I think Dr. Casadaban’s family is deeply offended about the secrets. And maybe Dr. Cerrina’s family is too. How do we know?

    But it is apparent that you, being so intelligent, obviously have more information than we, the stupid pubic with our uneducated fears.

    It is heartening, however, to hear that you adamantly somehow believe that Dr. Cerrina’s death has nothing to do with his nanotech research. But would you then mind sending us the link to your information? This would be very helpful. It would surely make us more educated. Right?…isn’t that one of your complaints?

    Also would you please send us your links on the enormous numbers of studies being done on nanotech health issues which you describe? We know that studies have been done that indicate that a mesothelioma -like illness may develop from some nanotech exposures. What other studies could you lead us to?

    The public waits with bated breath.

    If we don’t hear from you…you might want to reconsider who is the dishonest one, my dear educated friend.