The broader impact /commercial potential of this I-Corps project is the development a safe way to reduce aflatoxin contamination in food. Aflatoxin contamination is a risk to human and livestock health. The World Health Organization estimates that 25 percent or more of the world’s crops are destroyed by aflatoxin contamination annually. The proposed technology would support food security, help to reduce hunger worldwide, and improve quality of life by providing increased quantities of safe food. The technology would allow for crops to not be wasted, enabling economic benefits. In addition, this environmentally friendly method has the potential to reduce or replace fungicide and pesticide use, further benefitting the environment.

This I-Corps project is based on the development of nanotechnology that has been shown to significantly reduce fungal aflatoxin biosynthesis and excretion, using very low concentrations of manufactured silver nanoparticles (NPs). Research has shown that the reduced toxin production is not due to the silver ion but rather by transcriptome-level changes in the fungi based on reduced production of reactive oxygen species after exposure to the NP. Nano-fungal interactions also may be regulated based on the optimization of NP physico-chemical properties, and both size and coating of the NPs have been shown to have a significant effect. This regulation may allow for silver NPs to inhibit aflatoxin production by fungi responsible for grain, fruit and vegetable spoilage.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

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University of South Carolina at Columbia
United States
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