First-in-human testing of graphene's safety shows encouraging results

Researchers at the University of Manchester, University of Edinburgh, ICN2, RIVM and the University of the Highlands and Islands have tested the safety and health implications of graphene, revealing that it has the potential to be used without risk to human health.

The study has shown that the use of graphene without harm to the human body is possible, through the carefully controlled inhalation of graphene, shown to have no short-term adverse effects on cardiovascular function.


The first controlled exposure clinical trial in people was carried out using thin, ultra-pure graphene oxide.

Further work is needed to find out whether high doses of the water-compatible form of the material or other forms of graphene will have a different effect.

The team will also aim to discover whether prolonged exposure to graphene would impact human safety.

Professor Kostas Kostarelos, of the University of Manchester and the Catalan Institute of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (ICN2) in Barcelona, said: “This is the first-ever controlled study involving healthy people to demonstrate that very pure forms of graphene oxide – of a specific size distribution and surface character – can be further developed in a way that would minimize the risk to human health.”

Dr. Mark Miller, of the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Cardiovascular Science, said: “Nanomaterials such as graphene hold such great promise, but we must ensure they are manufactured in a way that is safe before they can be used more widely in our lives.

“Being able to explore the safety of this unique material in human volunteers is a huge step forward in our understanding of how graphene could affect the body. With careful design we can safely make the most of nanotechnology.”

The scientists recruited 14 volunteers to take part in the study. The volunteers breathed the material through a face mask for two hours while cycling in a purpose-designed mobile exposure chamber brought to Edinburgh from the National Public Health Institute in the Netherlands.

The team measured the effects of lung function, blood pressure, blood clotting, and inflammation in the blood before the exposure and at two-hour intervals. The volunteers then returned to the clinic a few weeks later for repeated controlled exposures to a different size of graphene oxide or clean air for comparison.

The observed safety of graphene suggested that there were no adverse effects on lung function, blood pressure, or most of the other biological parameters analyzed.

The team noticed a slight suggestion that inhalation of the material may influence the way the blood clots, but this effect was very small.

Professor Bryan Williams, Chief Scientific and Medical Officer at the British Heart Foundation, said: “The discovery that this type of graphene can be developed safely, with minimal short term side effects, could open the door to the development of new devices, treatment innovations and monitoring techniques.

“We look forward to seeing larger studies over a longer timeframe to better understand how we can safely use nanomaterials like graphene to make leaps in delivering lifesaving drugs to patients.”

Posted: Feb 16,2024 by Roni Peleg