Nano(eco)toxicology and beyond (ToxBe), 2014-2019.

Institutional Research Funding, IUT23-5

Leader: Dr. A. Kahru

Rapidly developing nanotechnologies offer the mankind countless benefits on the background of limited information on the respective environmental and health risks. ToxBe aims evaluating the existing and obtaining new scientific knowledge on chemical and nanoparticle (NP) safety. For that, we will first critically analyze the existing literature on environmental hazards of NPs, e.g., identify potential descriptors for QSAR models. Targeted (eco)toxicological testing will be used (i) to fill the data gaps on environmental hazard of NPs and (ii) to generate homogenous training sets for QSARs. Further, the toxicological pathways of hazardous NPs – solubilization, induction of reactive oxygen species, interference with biomembranes and -molecules will be identified by refining the existing and designing new cost-effective bioassays. To increase the environmental relevance, environmentally more relevant species, test conditions and simplified laboratory food chains will be used.

Assessment of hazard of UV weathered microplastics in aquatic environment (UV-PLASTOX) , 2020-2022.

Mobilitas Pluss Postdoctoral Researcher Grant, project MOBJD509

Leader: Dr. A. Khosrovyan

The adverse effect of the microplastic (< 5 mm) pollution on environment is increasingly acknowledged with oceans and surface waters as most concerned compartments. Warningly, there are big ‘ecotoxicological’ knowledge gaps concerning: (i) the impact of UV-weathering on water leachable toxicity of ‘conventional’ and biodegradable microplastic ; (ii) long-term toxic effects for planktonic vs benthic organisms and (iii) the effect of nanoplastic. In this project we will adapt a novel method introduced by EU JP Oceans project WEATHER MIC for evaluation of UV-facilitated water leachable toxicity of microplastic to our Laboratory conditions and apply that also for biodegradable microplastic. Thus, we will generate new data on the potential ecotoxicological effects of different sizes and types of UV-weathered microplastic to selected fresh and marine water planktonic and benthic organisms. Connection between the toxic effects and chemical composition of the leachates will be searched.

Response of algal communities to toxicants with different modes of action, 2019-2022.

Start-up grant PSG311

Leader: Dr. V. Aruoja

The aquatic risk assessment of existing and emerging pollutants is mainly based on toxicity assays using artificial culture media and one species at a time. While such experiments are useful for comparisons of chemicals, the results are difficult to apply in real life situations with complex matrices and multi-species exposures. The relevance of aquatic toxicity assays can be improved by using media based on natural water and a community of species instead of one. This is already employed in the mainstream of ecology that deals with biodiversity, functional diversity and resistance of communities to external stress. The current proposal combines the two fields providing a more realistic approach to environmental effects of three major classes of toxicants with different modes of action: organic chemicals, pesticides and nanoparticles.

Opportunities for mitigation of bee losses


Lead partner: Eesti Maaülikool (Dr. M. Mänd, Dr. A. Viltrop); partners: TÜ (Dr. V. Sõber) and NICPB (Dr. A. Kahru)
NICPB main contributor: Dr. I. Blinova, Dr.  A. Lukjanova, Dr. M. Sihtmäe

Pollinators are vital for natural and agricultural ecosystems. Yet, recent trends indicate declines in their numbers and species richness. This decline is due to multiple stressors acting in parallel and synergizing the effects of each other. Moreover, each region carries its specific characteristics and stressors, creating the need for a region-based approach. The project ‘Opportunities for mitigation of bee losses’ will generate recommendations for efficient conservation as well as beekeeping measures. The new scientific knowledge gained by the project allows us to fill existing data gaps and provide optimal measures to mitigate bee losses in Estonia. The project will create the Project Network; evaluate the effects of habitat- and landscape-level factors affecting pollinators; analyse existing veterinary problems and toxic compounds relevant to Estonian conditions; analyse the severity of existing stressor and generate protocols for policymakers to mitigate the effects.

Nanoparticle-macrophage interactions in vitro: Focus on nanosafety, 2016-2019.

Personal Research Funding, PUT1015

Leader: Dr. O. Bondarenko

Nanoparticles (NPs) offer unique properties for biomedical applications. Therapeutic use of NPs implies their administration into bloodstream, where NPs inevitably come into contact with the immune cells and pose immunotoxicity concerns. Macrophages are phagocytizing immune cells that directly interact with NPs and can be used as in vitro model to study possible immunotoxic effects of NPs. The main aim of this proposal is to reveal physico-chemical properties of NPs that can be modified to reduce NP toxicity to human macrophages, without compromising their beneficial function(s). Medically perspective Fe, Ag and CuO NPs and their novel modifications were selected for the study, aiming to link chemical composition, size and surface coating of NPs to their in vitro effects in macrophages, focusing on toxicity mechanisms and immune responses. As the main output, we will provide novel structure-related immunotoxicity information for NPs that is crucial for biomedical applications.

Evaluation of the potential hazardous effects of microplastic to marine and freshwater zooplankton, 2017-2021.

Personal Research Funding, PUT1512

Leader: Dr. M. Heinlaan

Microplastic (MP) waste (particles ≤ 5 mm) in the waterbodies is accumulating rapidly yet the current knowledge and scientific proof on the potential consequences of this pollution is not sufficient to choose the most effective countermeasures to fight this problem. The main objective of the current project is to evaluate the hazardous effects of of MP on marine and freshwater zooplankton – the base of aquatic food-webs. For that, we will perform hazard assessment of different particle types of the most wide-spread low-density polymers. Special focus will be on linking the particle properties to the observed effects, mapping the sub-lethal effects as early warnings of instability of the aquatic populations in the long-run and evaluating the MP role as the co-contaminant carrier. As the main outcome, novel information, data and hazard assessment protocols will be provided for better understanding the MP waste problem and application for regulatory and further research purposes.

Center of Nanomaterials Technologies and Research(NAMUR+), 2017-2021.


Leader of the project: Tartu University (Dr. V. Kisand), partners: TTÜ (Dr. M. Kauk-Kuusik) and NICPB (Dr. A. Kahru),
NICPB main contributors: Dr. A. Ivask, Dr. K. Kasemets, Dr. I. Blinova

Aim of the project NAMUR+ is to establish the Estonian Research Infrastructures Roadmap object – an infrastructure/excellence centre for the nanomaterials research and development, and their safety assessment bringing together projects partners’ already exciting and in the future purchased high-technology equipment. The partners of NAMUR+ are Tartu University, Tallinn University of Technology and National Institute of Chemical Physics and Biophysics (Laboratory of Environmental Toxicology, leading partner for the nanomaterials safety assessment).

Functional Glyconanomaterials for the Development of Diagnostics and Targeted Therapeutic Probes (GLYCONanoPROBES), 2019-2023.

COST CA18132

MC member: Dr. K. Kasemets

Rohkem infot COST-ist.

European Network of Vaccine Adjuvants, 2017-2021.

COST CA16231

MC member: Dr. O. Bondarenko

More information from COST.

Anti-Microbial Coating Innovations to prevent infectious diseases (AMICI), 2016-2020.

COST CA15114

MC members: Dr. A. Kahru, Dr. K. Kasemets

More information from COST.

Network on technology-critical elements – from environmental processes to human health threats (NOTICE), 2015-2019.


MC member: Dr. A. Kahru, MC substitute: Dr. I. Blinova

More information from the homepage of the project and from COST.

Contact Information