Foresight Nanotech Institute Weekly News Digest: September 6, 2006
Nanotechnology that's Good For People
Foresight note: This research uses nanoparticles to solve a delivery problem in brain cancer treatment.
Headline: Targeted nanoparticles aim to improve boron-neutron capture therapy
Boron-neutron capture therapy (BNCT) is an experimental treatment for virulent brain cancer that aims to kill malignant cells by generating high- energy alpha particles inside tumors. Clinical trials of BNCT have been disappointing, however, because of the difficulty in getting enough boron, which produces alpha particles when irradiated with a neutron beam, into tumors and in clearing from the body any boron not taken up by cancer cells. Now, two recent papers in the journal Bioconjugate Chemistry suggest that targeted nanoparticles may be able to solve this problem.
Werner Tjarks, Ph.D., and his colleagues at Ohio State University used lipid- based nanoparticles to encapsulate novel boron-containing compounds for delivery to tumors. The investigators designed these boron-containing compounds to mimic the chemical structure of cholesterol with the aim of having tumor cells incorporate these compounds into their cell membranes, just as they do with cholesterol. But because all cells put cholesterol in their cell membranes, the investigators knew that it would be critical to develop a targeted delivery agent for their boron-containing cholesterol mimics.
Now, that same group of investigators has shown that these nanoparticles are effective at suppressing tumor growth when tested in an animal model of human ovarian cancer. In addition, animals treated with this nanoparticle formulation do not appear to experience adverse side effects that often limit the ability of patients to tolerate chemotherapy. The researchers reported the results of their preclinical work in the journal Cancer Chemotherapy and Pharmacology.
Nanotechnology that's Good For the Planet
Foresight note: This research manipulates spinach chlorophyll to create a multi-step complex biological switch.
Headline: Nanoscientists create biological switch from spinach molecule
Nanoscientists have transformed a molecule of chlorophyll-a from spinach into a complex biological switch that has possible future applications for green energy, technology and medicine.
The study offers the first detailed image of chloropyhll-a — the main ingredient in the photosynthesis process — and shows how scientists can use new technology to manipulate the configuration of the spinach molecule in four different arrangements, report Ohio State physicists Saw-Wai Hla and Violeta Iancu in today's early edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The work has immediate implications for basic science research, as the configuration of molecules and proteins impacts biological functions. The study also suggests a novel route for creating nanoscale logic circuits or mechanical switches for future medical, computer technology or green energy applications, said Hla, an associate professor of physics.
"It's important to understand something about the chlorophyll-a molecule for origin of life and solar energy conversion issues," he said.
Foresight note: Mimicking nature is one avenue leading to nanotechnology solutions. In this case, nanoscience may lead to cheaper solar power.
Headline: Re-inventing nature for cheaper solar power
A research team in Sydney has created molecules that mimic those in plants which harvest light and power life on Earth.
A leaf is an amazingly cheap and efficient solar cell," says Dr Deanna D'Alessandro, a postdoctoral researcher in the Molecular Electronics Group at the University of Sydney. "The best leaves can harvest 30 to 40 percent of the light falling on them. The best solar cells we can build are between 15 and 20 percent efficient, and expensive to make."
"We've recreated some of the key systems that plants use in photosynthesis," says Deanna.
Foresight note: This research could be applied to lab-on-a-chip devices or solid state sensors due to a low operating temperature.
Headline: 'Nano-flowers' show promise for alcohol detection
Spectacular flower-like nanostructures grown in a laboratory in China can detect alcohol and might also be useful as catalysts.
The "nanoflowers" were made from zinc oxide by Yujin Chen and colleagues at Harbin Engineering University. Conventional ethanol sensors are made from the same material and work by detecting the change in electrical resistance when a wad of zinc oxide powder or a layer of the material is exposed to ethanol vapour.
But these conventional sensors look set to be replaced by a new generation of detectors. "The sensor materials will probably be replaced with tailored nanostructures since they appear to give a higher sensitivity," explains Edman Tsang, who researches new nanomaterials at the University of Reading in the UK.
Zinc oxide sensors need to be heated to temperatures of up to (300 °C) before they become sensitive to ethanol. Chen's nanoflowers become sensitive at just (140 °C).
"The observation of ultra-high sensitivity for ethanol at such an unusually low temperature is striking," says Tsang, who was not involved in the research. The new operating temperature is low enough to be practical to be built in solid state sensors such as lab-on-a chip devices.
Foresight corporate member Nanorex announced a definitive agreement to acquire privately held Nano-Hive LLC, a pioneer and leading developer of distributed molecular simulation software. The acquisition integrates two powerful open source software solutions under the same roof. NanoEngineer- 1, developed by Nanorex, is the first computer-aided design (CAD) program for the nanotech age, featuring a 3-D molecular modeling environment with an integrated molecular dynamics engine for simulating the movement and operation of mechanical nanosystems. NanoHive-1 is an advanced nanosystem simulation platform with the ability to integrate several molecular physics plugins and distribute calculations over a network to many computers. Nano-Hive is renamed to NanoHive-1 for consistency with the rest of the Nanorex product line.
If you are interested in advancing beneficial nanotechnology, please consider becoming a member of Foresight. With your support, Foresight will continue to be the leading public interest voice for nanotechnology that will focus on using this powerful technology to improve the health and well being of people and the planet.
We have membership levels designed for inclusion of all who are interested in our nanotechnology future whether you are a student, individual or corporation.
October 31-Novemer 2, 200
Another nanotechnology conference? You bet! Bringing new products to market requires working together like never before. That's why at SEMI NanoForum 2006 unites executives from the semiconductor manufacturing and nanotech communities to share expertise and speed commercialization of nano-enabled products across industries.
Attendees of SEMI NanoForum 2006 will:
Identify new market opportunities resulting from nanotech
Headline: Carbon-nanotube toxicity test tricks scientists
News source: Physorg.com
Recent research has revealed that a standard cell-viability test may be causing carbon-nanotubes to "fake" toxicity. This work may explain why some studies have concluded that carbon nanotubes — which are being studied for their potential to improve building materials, drug-delivery systems, and electronics, to name a few applications — are dangerous to human health while others have not.
Researchers from the Institute of Toxicology and Genetics at the Karlsruhe Research Center in Karlsruhe, Germany, exposed human lung cells to single- walled carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs) — large cylindrical carbon molecules — and conducted several tests to determine the nanotubes effect on the cells' viability. Three tests showed the nanotubes to be non-toxic, but a fourth curiously produced the opposite result.
"Each of the four tests gauges the toxicity of the SWCNTs in a different way, using different indicators, but we would expect them to yield the same result," said the study's lead scientist, Harald Krug, to PhysOrg.com. "The fact that one test appears to produce a 'false positive' in terms of toxicity suggests that past carbon-nanotube toxicity studies may be flawed."
News source: BBC News by Elli Leadbeater
It is highly accurate, but there is something unusual about this image of the Cambridge University crest. The picture is about the width of a human hair, and is made up entirely of gently fluorescing DNA. It is produced by a technique that lets scientists examine the body's tiniest machinery while it is still working.
The ground-breaking approach could provide a fly-on-the-wall view of minute human cells at work, said David Klenerman of Cambridge University.
"We know a lot about the individual molecules that make up living cells, but we need to know how these assemble together," he told the British Association Science Festival.
Previous high-resolution images of cellular machinery have always involved killing the cells, so that scientists could not see them at work.
Headline: Developing nations urged to join forces in R&D
News source: Inter Press Service News Agency by Mario Osava
Developing countries, which lack the industrialized world's capacity for technological investment, are going to have to look to innovative solutions and collective initiatives if they expect to overcome their problems and address the basic needs of their people.
So warned India's Science and Technology Minister, Kapil Sibal, in an address at a ministerial forum on industry financing, in which he also noted that one U.S. pharmaceutical company alone — Pfizer — spends eight billion dollars on research and development (R&D) annually, more than many of the world's largest developing countries.
Monday's forum, sponsored by the Third World Network of Scientific Organisations (TWNSO), was part of the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World (TWAS) tenth general conference, held Sep. 2-6 in the Brazilian resort town of Angra dos Reis, 150 kilometres south of Rio de Janeiro.
In addition to establishing consortia to pool contributions from countries where scarce resources limit R&D, attention must be turned to "new science frontiers" such as nanotechnology, bioinformatics and new materials, and to the developing world's major problems, such as sanitation, food security and poverty, said Sibal.
News source: Times Online
Soldiers are to begin trialing a futuristic "liquid armor" that is worn like ordinary clothing but turns into a rigid shield as soon as it is hit by bullets or shrapnel.
The armor consists of material impregnated with liquid silica that has been modified using nanotechnology. It is designed as a flexible alternative to the current military armor, which consists of Kevlar material reinforced by heavyweight ceramic plates.
The American army hopes to use the liquid armor — which has been likened to the skin of cyborgs in films such as Terminator and RoboCop — in a new combat outfit that will enter service in 2010. British troops are also examining the concepts behind the armor, the technical name of which is shear thickening fluid (STF), for the Ministry of Defense's Future Infantry Soldier Technology project.
nanoTX' 06: the Promises of Tomorrow, the Business of Nanotechnology - Updated Speaker Line-up
September 27-28, 2006
nanoTX'06 will draw the top minds in four vital and interrelated nanotech areas of commerce:
There will also be an intense study of Trends/Finance/Investing by leading experts of industry.
The 2006 Foresight Institute Feynman Prizes will be presented at nanoTX' 06 on September 27, 2006 at the Exhibitors Reception.
Also at nanoTX'06, Foresight president Jillian Elliott will present on the International Technology Roadmap for Productive Nanosystems.
Dear readers – When reviewing news for this digest, I often read about something that I think is cool, but it doesn't fit within the usual editorial categories of the News Digest. This section highlights a nanotech advance, event or idea that I think is especially cool.
What I find cool about this article is that is shows a human side as an impetus for research. Sometimes through all the nano-hype, we can forget that nanotechnology will create solutions for problems that may appear unsolvable at this time.
Thanks for reading.
A new weapon to fight cancer — Drug delivery system gets tests
Ray Natha has been fighting pancreatic cancer for four years. After his diagnosis, he underwent chemotherapy, but the drugs' side effects — crippling nausea and fatigue, extreme anxiety before treatments and a blighted immune system — were more than he could bear...
Natha is the first human subject in the trials of a promising new nanomedicine being developed that — in animal tests — shrunk even drug-resistant tumors while causing only minor side effects.
Until 1996, the drug's developer, Mark Davis, had never thought of tackling cancer. A successful chemical engineer, for years he had worked at Caltech creating new materials with applications ranging from pharmaceuticals to semiconductors. Then his wife, Mary, was diagnosed with breast cancer. She underwent severe chemotherapy — losing her hair and her appetite and spending three weeks in isolation while her immune system rebuilt itself.
"She basically said, `There's got to be a better way than this, why don't you start working on it?'" Davis said.
Headline: Nanotechnology sensors raise privacy issues
The popular NSF-funded Earth & Sky radio series — "illuminating pathways to a vibrant and sustainable future for over six million people daily" — has been focusing on nanotech for quite a while now. Most recently they featured an interview with Foresight's blogger, Christine Peterson, looking at the question of nanotechnology-based sensors and privacy:
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