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Foresight Nanotech Institute Weekly News Digest: February 28, 2007

Top Nano News of the Week

Headline: Security implications of nanotechnology
News source: Nanodot

Though we do not always agree with Gregor Wolbring, his column on nanotech and the military reminds us of a very difficult potential problem:

"The start of a nano arms race, and the lack of willingness to regulate potential synthetic biology through the modification of existing treaties or the application of existing treaties or the development of new regulations is short sighted.

"Nano or synthetic biology weapons will diffuse into hands other than the inventor and first user, and it is easier to reverse engineer nano or synthetic biology military products than to make a nuclear weapon. Once they exist they can be copied, and diffusion of the resulting products will make local and global security nearly impossible. Security would come with a hefty price tag — not just in financial terms, but in changes to societal interactions."

This is indeed the big challenge in nanotech safety — not the nanoparticle toxicity question being widely debated today …

— See Nanodot for the full post by Christine Peterson

In this issue:

Health: Nanotubes deliver gene therapy molecules into cells
Health: Nanoparticles rely on 'velcro effect' to target tumor cells
Health: Quantum rods and dots image cancer cells
Information technology: Integrating nanostructures into 2- or 3-dimensional electronic systems
Advancing Beneficial Nanotechnology - Join Foresight
Research: Peanut-shaped nanostructures
News: Industry should become familiar with EPA white paper on nanotechnology
Events - NanoManufacturing Conference & Exhibits, 2nd Annual Nanomedicine
Toward Productive Nanosystems: Study of atomic movement by designed nanoparticles
Editor's Pick - Rings of single-walled carbon nanotubes
Nanodot - Your chance to influence nanotechnology policy
Contact Foresight

Nanotechnology that's Good For People

Foresight Challenge: Improving health and longevity

Headline: Carbon nanotubes deliver siRNA into human cells
News source: National Cancer Institute's Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer

Short pieces of RNA, known as small interfering RNA (siRNA), have the potential to become a new class of anticancer drugs if researchers can solve the problem of how to deliver these fragile molecules to cancer cells … One possible solution, identified by investigators at Stanford University's Center for Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence Focused on Therapy Response, is to use carbon nanotubes to transport siRNA agents through the bloodstream and into cells.

Carbon nanotubes are adept at passing through the cell membrane, and Hongjie Dai, Ph.D., and his colleagues used that property to deliver siRNA molecules into human cells.

Angewandte Chemie International Edition abstract

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Foresight Challenge: Improving health and longevity

Headline: Nanoparticles rely on 'velcro effect' to target tumor cells
News source: National Cancer Institute's Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer

The researchers set out to test which of two hypotheses best explains the observation that targeted nanoparticles are far more efficient at delivering drug molecules or imaging agents to tumor cells than when the targeting agent is attached directly to an individual drug molecule. One hypothesis holds that the Velcro mechanism ["putting multiple targeting molecules on a nanoparticle surface"] is responsible for the superior delivery properties of targeted nanoparticles, while the second hypothesis credits cells with being able to more rapidly take up nanoparticles than individual drug molecules.

Chemistry and Biology abstract

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Foresight Challenge: Improving health and longevity

Headline: Quantum rods and dots image cancer cells
News source: National Cancer Institute's Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer

Brightly fluorescent quantum dots and quantum rods are quickly becoming important tools for identifying specific molecules and cells in living systems. Two new reports demonstrate some of the ways in which cancer researchers are using these nanoscale imaging agents.

Hideo Higuchi, Ph.D., and colleagues at Tohoku University in Japan, used antibody-labeled quantum dots and a high-sensitivity fluorescence microscope fitted with a video camera to make 30-frame-per-second movies of these nanoparticles as they traveled through the bloodstream to tumors in mice …

In another study, Paras Prasad, Ph.D., and his colleagues at the State University of New York in Buffalo showed that they could create water-soluble quantum rods that can be used as targeted probes for imaging cancer cells using a technique known as two-photon fluorescence imaging. Quantum rods, like spherical quantum dots, can be made to fluoresce with a wide range of colors, but the larger dimensions of quantum rods make them easier to excite with incoming light than their spherical cousins.

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Nanotechnology that's Good For the Planet

Foresight Challenge: Making information technology available to all

Foresight note: This research reports use of a printing process to integrate different types of nanostructures into two- or three-dimensional electronic systems.

Headline: Gutenberg + nanotechnology = printable electronics
News source: Nanowerk Spotlight, by Michael Berger

"Our approach, the combined use of semiconductor nanomaterials and printing techniques, enables high quality electronics to be formed on diverse substrates, including nonplanar surfaces and thin plastic sheets," John A. Rogers tells Nanowerk. "These capabilities, in particular the ability to use any mixture of component materials, all lie well outside of the range of things that can be achieved with conventional wafer based approaches to electronics."

Rogers, a professor of chemistry, materials science and engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and his research group are trying to develop approaches that enable "high performance electronics anywhere", i.e. they would like to extend semiconductor device technology to substrates other than the semiconductor wafer.

"Our goal is to invent methods that can allow interesting applications which cannot be addressed with conventional technologies, such as flexible displays, large area solar cells, conformable X-ray imagers, distributed structural and personal health monitors, curved surface imagers as electronic eyes, etc" says Rogers. "Our belief is that inorganic semiconductor nanomaterials, delivered to a target device substrate using printing techniques, forms an attractive way to achieve devices of these types."

Science abstract

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Advancing Beneficial Nanotechnology

Do you believe that nanotechnology will give society the ability tackle the hard challenges facing humanity? What's your priority for nanotechnology: cancer treatments and longevity therapies, sustainable energy, clean water, a restored environment, space development, or "zero waste" manufacturing?

If you would like to help influence the direction of this powerful technology, please consider becoming a member of Foresight Nanotech Institute. With your support, Foresight will continue to educate the general public on beneficial nanotechnology and what it will mean to our society.

To join:

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Nanotech Research

Headline: Peanut-shaped nanostructures: Tiny acorns that fuse together in pairs to form miniature peanuts

News source: PhysOrg.com

Japanese researchers have succeeded in producing peanut-shaped nanoparticles comprised of two different sulfur-containing substances …

Unlike "normal-sized" granules, the structural characteristics — such as shape and size — of nanoscale inorganic particles have a significant effect on the physical and chemical properties of these tiny structures. Therefore, there is great interest in the discovery of processes for the controlled production of such particles.

Things get especially interesting when the nanoparticles are made of two different substances to give two different functionalities in one particle, such as luminescence and magnetism.

Angewandte Chemie International Edition abstract

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Nanotech News

Headline: Industry should become familiar with EPA white paper on nanotechnology

News source: Nanowerk News

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's white paper on nanotechnology (pdf download, 2.6 MB) offers the industry and a chief regulatory agency a chance to work together to define ground rules for future development, said Dave Hobson, chief science officer for nanoTox(TM), a Houston-based testing firm.

Hobson described the document as "forward looking" in its recommendations.

"The white paper shows a proactive and positive position on furthering the development of the industry and protecting the environment," said Hobson. "The EPA appears to realize that it cannot do this job alone, without industry involvement."

"It's crucial that EPA's approach to implementation of many of the recommendations in the white paper involves industrial input and perspectives to be most successful."

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's white paper on nanotechnology (pdf download, 2.6 MB)

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Nanotech Events

NanoManufacturing Conference & Exhibits
Society of Manufacturing Engineers
March 14 - March 15, 2007
Marriott Chicago Northwest
Hoffman Estates, IL USA

NanoManufacturing is leading the next industrial revolution. Like steam engines, electricity, and transistors, nanotechnology is primed to completely disrupt markets, industries, and business models worldwide. Similarly, it will replace our entire manufacturing base with a new, radically precise, less expensive, and more flexible way of making products. These pervasive changes in manufacturing will leave virtually no product, process, or industry untouched.

Includes Chris Phoenix on exponential molecular nanomanufacturing.

2nd Annual Nanomedicine: Commercializing Drug Delivery, Diagnostics and Medical Devices
March 26 to 27, 2007
Hyatt Regency Crystal City
Arlington, VA

Basic research in nanotechnology and nanomedicine is rapidly producing commercially viable products. Governments and industries across the globe are staking their claims by investing billions of dollars, euros and yen for research.

Nanotech researchers, executives, policy-makers, patent practitioners, and investors from the medical, business, patent and life sciences community will gather in Washington, DC in November for the 2nd Annual Nanomedicine Conference to discuss the most important applications of nanotechnology in drug delivery, diagnostics and medical devices.

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Toward Productive Nanosystems

Foresight note: This research is another example in which the justification and near term applications are in the biomedical area, but the technology being developed — in this case, the ability to control reactions by using specially designed nanoparticles to preorganize the reacting molecules by multiple weak interactions — should prove quite useful in developing productive nanosystems and molecular manufacturing.

Headline: Study of atomic movement may influence design of pharmaceuticals
News source: University of Liverpool

Chemists at the University of Liverpool have designed a unique structure to capture the movement of atoms which may impact on future designs of pharmaceuticals.

The research, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), will further understanding of how to control chemical reactions and will influence improvements in a range of important processes from the design of biopharmaceuticals to the engineering of new catalysts, enabling scientists, for example, to develop products in more environmentally friendly ways.

The Liverpool team created a porous crystal which has 'walls' of atoms and cavities which act as containers for molecules. They used this crystal to accommodate a set of molecules as they took part in a chemical reaction similar to reactions by enzymes and proteins to regulate and keep alive living systems.

Science abstract

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Editor's Pick

We continue our tradition of citing a special story that strikes the Editor as especially cool, but which doesn't fit within the usual editorial categories of the News Digest.

This work on positioning and shaping micrometer-scale molecular systems illustrates a systematic approach that might be applicable to smaller molecular objects.

— Jim

Headline: Rings of single-walled carbon nanotubes

News source: Nanowerk News

The assembly and manipulation of nanoscale building blocks are among the most important scientific challenges in nanoscience because they not only afford a potential route to the fabrication of large-scale integrated nanoscale devices but also provide a better understanding of the issues that govern self-organization in many classes of materials.

A group of researchers at the Institute for Nanotechnology at Northwestern University have recently developed a directed assembly approach for positioning and shaping single-wall carbon nanotubes (SWNTs) into rationally designed structures based upon their interaction with nanopatterned monolayer templates.

This report concludes that the formation of SWNT rings is driven by the balance between the strain arising from tube bending and the differences in van der Waals interactions with the molecular templates. This work, together with the researchers' previous report … provides a comprehensive model for the surface assembly/manipulation of these nanoscale building blocks.

Nano Letters abstract

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Headline: Your chance to influence nanotechnology policy

News source: Nanodot

If you're a Foresight member, you're already helping improve nanotechnology policy, but here's another way: apply to participate in the upcoming online course Debating Science and The Nanotechnology Debate. In the syllabus (pdf), the actual course name appears to be "Debating Science: Practical Reasoning and Nanotechnology":

"For example, what is the current state of development of nanotechnologies? How does the current reality measure up to the promises being made by its most enthusiastic backers? What kind of social impacts will nanotechnology have? What will be its impact on the global economy? How will these benefits be shared among developed and developing countries? What types of nanotechnological development pose the greatest threats to environmental and biological health? Which developments pose the greatest threat to global political stability? What types of political institutions might nanotechnology change? …

"A major portion of this course will be a group project. It consists of writing a policy document summarizing the course deliberation about global climate change. This project will be tied to the final learning outcome, for students develop the relevant skills of practical reasoning in relation to social and ethical controversies. Dissenting opinions will be allowed as appendices to the document but the document as a whole must be written with clear enough conclusions to be usable by policy makers."

Think such a document will have no influence? Think again. Policymakers are busy people; they like to build on (i.e., crib from) earlier work. (Credit: Nanowerk)

— Nanodot post by Christine Peterson

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Contact Foresight

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Dr. James Lewis, Research Analyst at Foresight Nanotech Institute, is the new editor of the Foresight Nanotech Institute Weekly News Digest. If you would like to submit a news item or contact him with comments about the News Digest, please send an email to editor@foresight.org

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