Martin O'Neill

"With the help of Nuffield and my supervisors at Napier University, I have successfully initiated novel research, with important health, environmental and lifestyle implications."

In Summer 2008, Martin investigated with Dr Gary Hutchison and Dr Eva Malone at the School of Life Sciences, Napier University the effect of nanoparticle exposure on male reproductive function. Male reproductive health is in decline with reports of falling sperm counts, reduced semen quality and increased incidence of disease. The reason for this decline is unclear but it has been suggested that environmental and lifestyle factors play a role. Humans can be exposed to nanoparticles accidentally in the workplace, or through the use of a wide range of consumer products (e.g. surface coatings, suntan lotion, food packaging). Nanoparticles can enter the body and translocate to secondary sites, such as the testes. During this project, Martin aimed to establish if two commonly used nanoparticles (silver and titanium dioxide) were toxic to Sertoli cells, a major cell type in the testes, and if they could induce Sertoli cells to initiate inflammation in the testis via the production of nitric oxide.

Martin exposed Sertoli cells to varying doses of titanium dioxide and silver nanoparticles His results revealed that silver nanoparticles were more toxic to Sertoli cells than titanium dioxide nanoparticles and that neither nanoparticle directly induced Sertoli cells to induce nitric oxide production.

"I intend to continue with my academic career by pursuing a PhD position, however I now believe that thanks to the Nuffield bursary and my experienced supervisors I have the skills required to effectively conduct both my Honours project this academic year, and future projects in research laboratories."