Nature Nanotechnology editors have initiated an effort to develop guidelines that would apply to researchers submitting papers on the toxicity of various nanomaterials. A dialogue on the matter was scheduled for the 6th Annual Conference on Nanotoxicology held September 4-7, 2012, in Beijing. According to a journal editorial, “few studies offer consistent results that are of value, and it is difficult to compare studies because they are often carried out using poorly characterized nanomaterials and arbitrary experimental conditions.” Written comments are requested by November 30.

An accompanying commentary examined “published studies that report in vitro cytotoxicity of silica nanoparticles (SNPs)—a material that is widely used and studied by many, including us—to show the gaps in knowledge and the need to better focus our research efforts.” Françoise Schrurs & Dominique Lison, “Focusing the research efforts,” Nature Nanotechnology, September 2012. According to the authors, even the most basic questions, such as “Are SNPs more cytotoxic than their larger counterparts?,” “Do SNPs penetrate into cells?” and “Which properties of SNPs drive their cytotoxic activity?,” do not have clear answers despite the 38 papers eligible for analysis.