Name of the infrastructure: NILU-TA

Location (town, country): Kjeller, Norway

Web site address:

Legal name of organisation operating the infrastructure: Norwegian Institute for Air Research

Location of organisation (town, country): Kjeller, Norway


Description of the Infrastructure


NILU is an independent non profit research institute with 48 employeesincluding Ph.Ds in addition to 133 other researchers, technicians and supporting staff.Facilities: NILU Health effects laboratories are internationally recognised for development of in vitro assays fortoxicity testing and especially for genotoxicity expertise (FP7 NanoTEST). Laboratories consist of tissue culturelab, biochemistry and molecular toxicology lab with modern facilities. The laboratory is being run according tothe GLP principles, and will receive OECD GLP accreditation in 2010/2011. The laboratory provides internationaltraining in genotoxicity assays (comet assay and micronucleus assay) and will serve as reference laboratory fortoxicity testing (ECVAM).

In addition to the Health Effects laboratory, NILU has exceptional analytical and chemistry laboratories forinorganic and organic analysis, which are accredited according to EN/ISO/IEC 17025 and are among themost advanced in Europe, with international recognition for the development and analysis of polychlorinateddioxins/ furans and other environmentally hazardous compounds. The environmental chemistry research atNILU has recently been very favourably graded (4/5 in terms of scientific quality and productivity) as part of aResearch Council evaluation of basic research in chemistry in Norway. The quality and quantity of the scientificoutput was described as “excellent”. The laboratories have a range of state-of-the art analytical equipment,including a series of high-resolution mass spectrometers to determine a broad range of organic and inorganicpollutants. NILU’s laboratories for organic trace element analysis in environmental samples are today the largesttrace element analytical chemistry laboratories in Norway. NILU has long experience in aerosol sampling andmonitoring, and more than 20 years of experience in analyzing organic and inorganic trace constituents inaerosols.



NILU has a broad expertise in environmental research on sources, fate and effects of pollution. Eventhough the NILU Health effects group is very young, it is already prominent in training students, hosting eventsand attracting international scientists.

New Areas of Research: NILU’s recent focus on nanoparticles is based on previous experience in analysis ofair pollution particle characterisation and toxicity of ultrafine particles, asbestos and mineral fibres as well as onNILU expertise in interdisciplinary research. New research focuses on adverse health effects and environmentalimpact of NPs. NILU researchers are currently developing methods for characterisation, evaluation andtoxicological assessment of particulate materials including NPs.

The Research Environment: Almost 1/3 of the employees at NILU are from countries outside Norway,giving an international environment with experts from the whole world. NILU’s management, administrationoffices, supporting services (IT and web support) and existing infrastructure encourage young researchers toperform high standard research, by giving full management support, advice on financial management, andorganizing regular practical training in administrative/financial management and reporting, and by providingclear instructions and templates for all administrative activities. NILU is also organizing regular courses incommunication, writing scientific papers and research projects. These courses are led by the most experiencedscientists at NILU with support of external internationally recognised experts.




Particle characterization:

State-of-the-art analytical instruments in use include GC/HRMS, HPLC/HRMS-TOF, HPLC/HR-ICP-MS,and TOA-TOT. NILU is amongst the first institutions worldwide to succeed using HPLC/HRMS-TOF forcharacterization of polar organic molecules in ambient aerosols. The laboratory is well equipped with bothlow and high resolution plasma mass spectrometers (ICP-MS, ICP-HRMS) for determination of more than 60isotopes. A cold vapour atomic fluorescence absorption spectrophotometer (CV-AFS) is used for determinationof total mercury. Sample preparation and metal analysis are performed in a 90 m2 clean room area builtaccording to international standards for class 10 000 and 100 000 ppf3. NILU is experienced in determiningmetals in a variety of sample types (water, the Polar Environmental Centre biological- geological- and airsamples). NILU has contributed with metal data in several national and international screening projects anddetermined rare metals such as silver and platinum in different environmental samples.


Particle exposure assessment

In vitro facilities: The new Health effects laboratories consists of cell culture, molecular toxicology andbiochemistry laboratories. All three laboratories are run under GLP conditions. The tissue culture and otherlaboratories are well equipped for handling and research on nanoparticles. Facilities include’ high throughputtechnology and automated image analysis system for the comet assay in addition to standard lab equipment(CO2 and cold incubators, electrophoresis, various centrifugation facilities, sonication, plate readers, optical andfluorescent microscopes and imaging analysis tools). Campus has TEM and confocal microscopy.


Research supported by the infrastructure

NILU’s research is organised into a logical framework with specific focus on: 1.Dispersion of nanoparticlesin different media and biological fluids and characterisation of the impact of different exposure scenarios onhumans (biological systems), 2. Determination of the relation between potential toxicity and physic-chemicalproperties. 3. Nanoparticles uptake and mechanisms of toxicity – with focus on oxidative stress, inflammation,neurotoxicity, genotoxicity and carcinogenicity in vitro and in vivo; 4. Development of novel methodologies andtesting strategies to assess the impacts of nanoparticles on humans and to contribute to nanoparticles safety.5. Association between different toxicity pathways and development of disease. 6. Individual susceptibility inbiological response (genetic predisposition) to nanoparticles exposure. Recent projects include FP7 NanoTESTfocussed on development of methodologies and testing strategies for nanoparticles used in medical diagnosticand medicine, coordinated by NILU; EEA bilateral project investigated the effect of metallic engineerednanoparticles (genotoxicity, immunotoxicity and reproductive toxicity), internal project NanoBank focussed ondevelopment of reference material, nanoparticles characterisation, database and banking and on several othernational and international projects.


Particle characterization:

Dispersion of nanomaterials in various media and complex matrices including biological media. Studies ofthe reactivity of nanoparticles (solubility, aggregation, behaviour in biological and environmental media) andbiotransformation of nanoparticles in situ. Biological interaction of nanoparticles with biological systems.


Particle exposure assessment

Experience working with various human, mammalian and in vitro systems. Cultivation of different primary cellcultures and established cell lines from different human and mammalian cell systems. Experience and researchin the area of molecular and cellular toxicity (apoptosis/necrosis), in oxidative stress, neurotoxicity, in detectionof various DNA lesions, genotoxicity and neoplastic transformation in vitro. Development of molecular/cellularand genotoxic biomarkers and specific endpoints for nanoparticles toxicity. Research in oxidative DNA damageand repair and in individual susceptibility to environmental exposure. Focus on development of high throughputtechnology and strategies for nanoparticles toxicity testing, positive controls and relevant reference material.


Services currently on offer and scientific highlights

The diverse topics of interest at NILU create a pool of scientist from a range of disciplines; physics, chemistry,statistics, biology, toxicology, computer modelling etc.Research Health effect group is experienced in running international training courses and workshops. Laboratoryis providing international training in genotoxicity assays (comet assay and micronucleus assay) and will serveas reference laboratory for validation of in vitro methods for toxicity testing (ECVAM).