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Nov. 1: Scientist discusses nanotoxicology research

Orr-80RICHLAND, Wash. – Research into the interactions of engineering nanoparticles with living cells will be discussed at noon Friday, Nov. 1, in the Bioproducts, Sciences and Engineering Laboratory 101 at Washington State University Tri-Cities. BSEL is next to the campus greenhouses at 2720 Crimson Way, Richland. Admission is free to the public.

“Interactions of sub-micrometer inorganic particles with molecular machines in the living cell: Opportunity or threat?” will be presented by Galya Orr, Ph.D., senior research scientist and capability lead of cell isolation & systems analysis (CISA) at EMSL, the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory, a national scientific user facility located at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

The event is part of the Joint Engineering and Science Seminar (JESS) series, an interdisciplinary effort of the College of Arts and Sciences and the Office of Professional Programs at WSU Tri-Cities.

Orr will discuss the cellular interactions and intracellular fate of submicro- and nano-scale particles, which drive the cellular response and ultimately the impact on human health.

When inhaled, these particles are likely to reach the alveoli, where alveolar type II epithelial cells that are distinguished by apical microvilli are found. Orr’s team investigated the cellular interactions and internalization pathways of individual amorphous silica particles, which are used extensively in a wide range of industrial applications and are explored for drug delivery and medical imaging and sensing.

“We followed one particle at a time, using high-sensitivity time-lapse fluorescence imaging in live cells,” Orr said. “We found that positively charged particles can take advantage of the actin turnover machinery to “surf” along microvilli and reach the cell body, where they can enter the cell via the endocytotic machinery.

“We further found that syndecan-1 — a trans-membrane heparan sulfate proteoglycan — mediates the coupling of the particles with actin filaments across the cell membrane and their subsequent internalization,” she said.

“Together, we demonstrate the ability of inorganic particles to exploit the cellular machinery for better or for worse,” she said.

About the speaker

Orr joined PNNL in 1999. She has been the lead principal investigator on grants funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Air Force Research Laboratory. She earned her Ph.D. in neuroscience at the University of Arizona, Tuscon, and her bachelor’s degree in molecular and cellular biology at the Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa. In addition to honors for contributions to science, in 2010 she received the Outstanding Mentor Award from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science.

About the faculty collaborators

Yonas Demissie received his Ph.D. in civil and environmental engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He came to WSU Tri-Cities in 2012 and can be reached at 509-372-7344 or

Nikolaos Voulgarakis earned his Ph.D. in physics from the University of Crete in Greece. He joined WSU Tri-Cities in 2012 and can be reached at 509-372-7373 or

Learn more about WSU Tri-Cities — the most diverse campus in the WSU system — at




Melissa O’Neil Perdue, Marketing & Communications Manager, WSU Tri-Cities, 509-372-7319, cell/text 509-727-3094,

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