The field of nanomedicine faces many challenges in the development of standards to support meaningful data submission and information exchange. Numerous physico-chemical, in vitro, and in vivo assays must be addressed, with measurements currently dependent on non-standardized protocols and diverse technology types. Representing Structure-Activity-Relationships (SARs) in nanomedicine, in particular, is critical to understanding the effects of nanomaterial structure on biological activity. Unfortunately, information describing the nanomaterial including functionalizing entities and 3D structure is often represented in an undisciplined fashion. This lack of standardization has been a significant deterrent to meaningful data sharing across the nanotechnology community; few publications contain sufficient information to enable adequate interpretation of results and successful achievement of experimental reproducibility.
The nano-TAB effort aims to address data sharing challenges in nanotechnology by providing a standard means for identifying nanomaterials and characterizations in a tab-delimited format. nano-TAB is based on existing standards developed by the European Bioinformatics Institute (EBI) and the Investigation/Study/Assay (ISA-TAB) file format, which represents a variety of assays and technology types. The nano-TAB specification leverages ISA-TAB files describing investigations, studies, and assays and provides extensions to support nanomaterial structural information and concepts from the Washington University NanoParticle Ontology (NPO). The nano-TAB standard specification will enable the submission and exchange of nanomaterials to/from nanotechnology resources like the NCI’s caNanoLab nanotechnology portal and the Oregon State Nanomaterial-Biological Interactions (NBI) knowledgebase; empower organizations to adopt standards for representing data in nanotechnology publications; and provide researchers with guidelines for representing nanomaterials and characterizations to achieve cross-material comparison.
The nano-TAB effort is a collaboration between a variety of organizations and is registered as an ASTM Work Item (ASTM WK28974), which facilitates broad community outreach and input to the development of nano-TAB and other standards needed to support nanomedicine.
Familiarity with the fields of nanotechnology and nanomedicine is a pre-requisite for this specification. An understanding of ISA-TAB is recommended but not required as the nano-TAB specification provides descriptive information on ISA-TAB as applied to nanotechnology.