Nanomaterials are particles 1000-times smaller than the width of a hair and are used in a wide range of products from kitchenware and sunscreen, to sports equipment and aircraft. Their development has led to an increase in toxicity testing to ensure their safety. But these miniscule particles readily stick together when prepared in liquid suspension making it difficult to interpret specific characteristics such as individual nanoparticle size, surface area or shape when toxic responses are being identified.
They need to be consistently well separated and suspended with minimal clumping, for toxicity testing, so the solution is often supplemented with animal-derived proteins, like fetal bovine serum. Annually, more than 2 million bovine foetuses are used worldwide to produce approximately 800,000L of serum for scientific research and testing. Alongside the ethical and animal welfare concerns over how serum is acquired, batch-to-batch variability, and contamination risk leads to inconsistencies within experimental data.