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How many and which medical devices contain nanomaterials?

Nanomaterials are contained in many medical devices or applied to the surface. Examples and explanations can be found in our cross-cutting acticle on “Nanomaterials in medical devices“.

The use of nanomaterials in medical devices is clearly regulated at European level. Information on this can be found on the pages of the EUON Medical Devices at https://euon.echa.europa.eu/medical-devices.

Do silver nanoparticles help against corona viruses?

In principle, that is true.

The antibacterial effect of silver nanoparticles is known. This is the reason why it is used as a coating for implants or in wound dressings. The effect is based on the release of silver ions, i.e. small, electrically charged particulate matter. Silver nanoparticles have especially good properties, as they have a large surface from which these ions can be released. Scientific studies show that besides the antibacterial effect these ions act as antiviral agents as well. Laboratory tests have shown that they are effective against certain types of corona virus family. Scientists are currently investigating whether this applies to the originator of the disease COVID-19 and are looking into the use of surface coatings with silver nanoparticles in hospitals and public places.

Further information can be found here:

Do my medications contain nanoparticles?

Yes, drugs available in pharmacies, shops, at the doctor’s or in hospitals may contain nanoparticulate ingredients because of their specific use to improve or enhance their efficacy. Both nanoparticles and liposomes are used for these purposes (see also “What is the difference between nanoparticles and liposomes?“). The number of drugs containing nanomaterials in the regulatory process is still low. These include, for example, drugs for the treatment of tumour diseases, chronic hepatitis, acromegaly (giant growth), multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, age-related macular degeneration (AMD) with elevated LDL-C values or type 2 diabetes (see also or crosscutting text “Nanomedicine“).

In addition to the active ingredient, drugs also contain fillers and additives such as water, starch, vaseline or highly dispersed silicon dioxide. Due to the production process, silicon dioxide nanoparticles may also be generated. At present, pharmaceutical manufacturers are not obliged to label nanoscale ingredients in their medicines.

Further information can be found on the following websites of the European Medicines Agency (EMA)

What is the difference between nanoparticles and liposomes?

Although liposomes are often referred to as nanoparticles, they differ from classical nanoparticles in both, their structure and in their stability . Liposomes are therefore not nanoparticles in a narrower sense.

Nanoparticles are made of solid materials. Liposomes can be between a few nanometers to even 10 microns in size. They consist of certain lipids (so-called phospholipids, e.g from soy) together with other materials and form a hollow sphere consisting of one or more double membranes (bilayers – see Fig. 1, liposome with a double membrane). They are filled with water and require a water-loving environment. Their bilayers are water-loving on the outside and also inside of the hollow sphere. They are usually less stable than nanoparticles.

The encapsulation system “nanosome” is very similar to the liposomes. Nanosomes, however, possess only a single lipid monolayer. The name refers to their extremely small size. The name Nanosome is mainly used in cosmetics.

Can nanoparticles trigger allergies?

Allergies are negative responses of the immune system towards substances that are tolerated by most people. This effect has never been observed for engineered nanomaterials. Reports about nanomaterials that are associated with a higher allergic risk are usually referring to fine dust. These ultrafine particles usually occur as components of environmental pollution, originating mainly from fire, agriculture and traffic.

Present research focuses on simultaneous exposure towards allergens and nanoparticles. Likewise, this principle is also being explored for the development of new therapies for allergies.



Himly M., Grotz B., Sageder M., Geppert M., Duschl A. (2016). Immune Frailty and Nanomaterials: The Case of Allergies. Current Bionanotechnology, 2(1): 20-28.

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