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Foresight Nanotech Institute Weekly News Digest: June 6, 2007

Top Nano News of the Week

Foresight note: This advance in engineering novel nanoparticles (using peptides designed to mimic lipids) to optimize interaction with cell membrane lipids has some pharmaceutical industry observers speculating that designer nanoparticles could replace current liposome technology for drug delivery.

Headline: New designer lipid-like peptide with lipid nanostructures for drug delivery systems
News source: Science Daily

Scientists from Institute of Biophysics and Nanosystems Research, Austrian Academy of Sciences and of Centre for Biomedical Engineering and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, USA report findings that not only help us to understand the basic science of how lipid-like peptides interact with lipid molecules, but also may provide new strategies for the encapsulation and the delivery of biological active materials…

Dr. Anan Yaghmur, first author of the study, comments on the study, "the addition of small amounts of designer lipid-like peptides is sufficient to form systems with excellent potential for various biotechnological applications such as the encapsulation of water-insoluble drugs and the delivery of biological active materials."

PLoS ONE journal article (Open Access)

In this issue:

Health: Delivering RNAi
Health: Regulated drug release thanks to nano bubbles
Health: Nanotechnology advances in drug delivery
Information technology: See-through transistors
Information technology: Spinplasmonics—a new field in nanotechnology
Information technology: A stable quantum computing building block
Foresight Events: Productive Nanosystems Conference
Advancing Beneficial Nanotechnology - Join Foresight
Conference – SmallTimes NanoCon International
Research: Nanocomposites from bubbles
Editor's Pick: Science student's talent, passion shine through
Nanodot: Food workers worried about nanotechnology
Contact Foresight

Nanotechnology that's Good For People

Foresight Challenge: Improving health and longevity

Headline: Delivering RNAi
UMass Med School doctor combines nanotechnology and gene silencing
News source: Worcester Telegram & Gazette, written by Elizabeth Cooney

RNA interference is the natural mechanism that cells use to silence genes. Working with the human genome sequence, scientists have used RNAi to study the function of genes by turning them on and off… Now they are beginning to see how the tool, which has revolutionized research and launched a whole new field, might work to treat human diseases.

…In RNAi, the real-estate mantra location, location, location morphs into delivery, delivery, delivery.

[Dr. Tariq M. Rana and his colleagues] created natural amino-acid based nanoparticles as vehicles to deliver an RNAi molecule intended to silence … a protein involved in cholesterol synthesis. They chemically altered the particles to reach mouse livers after being injected into veins in the animals' tails.

In mice who received the nanoparticles containing RNAi to silence this protein important in making cholesterol, levels of cholesterol in their livers and in their blood plummeted. That proved they could deliver RNAi safely, effectively and at useful doses.

ACS Chemical Biology abstract

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Foresight Challenge: Improving health and longevity

Headline: Regulated drug release thanks to nano bubbles
News source: PhysOrg.com

Stents are medical implants that, for example, prevent the blocking of arteries after surgery. One of the problems using stents is the biocompatibility as the human body rejects and attacks foreign material. The Forschungszentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (FZD) developed a new method for making the surface of metal stents highly nano porous by producing millions of nano bubbles underneath.

This enlarged surface allows depositing and slowly releasing drugs over a longer period of time than with usual drug eluting stents. The market leader for stents, the Boston Scientific Corporation in the US, focuses on this route to prevent the rejection of cardiovascular stents as this allows the targeted release of the drug right at the walls of the blood vessels.

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Foresight Challenge: Improving health and longevity

Foresight note: This survey identifies about two dozen companies involved in nanotechnology-based drug delivery.

Headline: Nanotechnology advances in drug delivery
News source: Pharmaceutical Technology, written by Patricia Van Arnum

Nanotechnology is emerging as a tool for resolving challenge in delivering poorly water soluble and highly potent drugs.

Established drug delivery companies, start-ups, and academia are advancing nanotechnology in oral, injectable, transdermal, and implantable systems as a means to improve bioavailability for a variety of drugs.

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Nanotechnology that's Good For the Planet

Foresight Challenge: Making information technology available to all

Headline: See-through transistors
Transparent transistors made from nanowires could mean bright and clear OLED displays.
News source: Technology Review, written by Prachi Patel-Predd

Researchers at Purdue University and Northwestern University have now made flexible, see-through transistors using zinc-oxide and indium-oxide nanowires. By contrast, the amorphous or polycrystalline silicon transistors used in existing displays are not transparent. The new transistors also perform better than their silicon counterparts and are easier to fabricate on flexible plastic.

The transistors could lead to brighter see-through OLED displays, says Purdue electrical- and computer-engineering professor David Janes, who led the work published in last week's Nature Nanotechnology. When conventional nontransparent transistor circuitry is placed around the OLED, it takes up space on the display that could otherwise be emitting light. But, says Janes, "you could put transparent transistors underneath or on top of the pixel," increasing the light-emitting area.

Nature Nanotechnology abstract

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Foresight Challenge: Making information technology available to all

Headline: Prof pioneers new field in nanotechnology
News source: University of Alberta, written by Ryan Smith

A University of Alberta research team has combined two fields of study in nanotechnology to create a third field that the researchers believe will lead to revolutionary advances in computer electronics, among many other areas.

Abdulhakem Elezzabi and his colleagues have applied plasmonics principles to spintronics technology and created a novel way to control the quantum state of an electron's spin.

The new technology, which the researchers call spinplasmonics, may be used to create incredibly efficient, electron-spin-based photonic devices, which in turn may be used to build, for example, computers with extraordinary memory capacities.

"We've only just begun to scratch the surface of this field, but we believe we have the physics sorted out and one day this technology will be used to develop very fast, very small electronics that have a very low power consumption," said Elezzabi, the Canada Research Chair in Ultrafast Photonics and Nano-Optics and an electrical and computer engineering professor at the U of A.

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Foresight Challenge: Making information technology available to all

Headline: Single spinning nuclei in diamond offer a stable quantum computing building block
News source: Harvard University, written by David Baron

Surmounting several distinct hurdles to quantum computing, physicists at Harvard University have found that individual carbon-13 atoms in a diamond lattice can be manipulated with extraordinary precision to create stable quantum mechanical memory and a small quantum processor, also known as a quantum register, operating at room temperature. The finding brings the futuristic technology of quantum information systems into the realm of solid-state materials under ordinary conditions.

The results, described this week in Science, could revolutionize scientists' approach to quantum computing, which is built on the profound eccentricity of quantum mechanics and could someday far outperform conventional supercomputers in solving certain problems.

Science abstract

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Foresight Events

Productive Nanosystems: Launching the Technology Roadmap
Conference sponsored by Foresight Nanotech Institute and Society of Manufacturing Engineers with support from Battelle
October 9-10, 2007
DoubleTree Crystal City in Arlington, VA

Now, for the first time, the Technology Roadmap for Productive Nanosystems will describe the R&D pathways and products resulting from this ultimate technological revolution. Join us as we explore the power of advanced "bottom-up" nanotechnology in this 14th Foresight Conference on Advanced Nanotechnology.

Feynman Prize luncheon on October 9, 2007

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Advancing Beneficial Nanotechnology

Do you believe that nanotechnology will give society the ability to 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? Or perhaps there are potential nanotech scenarios you would like to prevent.

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.

Members receive the Foresight Nanotech Update newsletter. For a sample from the archives, see the interview of Donald A. Tomalia, President and Chief Technical Officer, Dendritic Nanotechnologies, Inc. "Perhaps the greatest reason for being excited about nanotechnology research is that it provides society an opportunity to examine new options for solving old problems." Join Foresight and help steer nanotech in the directions you personally support most!

Tomalia interview starts on page 4 of Update 57 (2.1 MB PDF)

To join:

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Foresight Partners

SmallTimes NanoCon International
The Leading Nanotechnology and MEMS Networking Event
November 14-16, 2007
Santa Clara, CA

Attracting hundreds of decision makers from around the world, Small Times NanoCon International is your premier source for business alliances, information exchange and commercial strategy.

Event Highlights:

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Nanotech Research

Foresight note: Among other applications, this research might lead to inexpensive arrays of nanowires for use in sensors or displays.

Headline: Nanocomposites from bubbles
News source: Chemistry World, written by James Mitchell Crow

Nanotubes and nanowires could be used in materials and devices by blowing them into bubble films, a process so cheap it is used to make bin bags.

Charles Lieber of Harvard University, US, and colleagues have found an efficient new way to add nanowires or nanotubes into polymer films. Unlike other techniques, which tend to give films of nanoparticle clumps, the resulting material has nanoparticles evenly aligned and distributed through the film.

'Nanocomposites are made currently by very exotic techniques like wet spinning,' Alan Dalton, an expert in nanomaterials at the University of Surrey, UK, told Chemistry World. 'The main breakthrough here is that very large assemblies can be made, very easily and very cheaply,' he said.

The team made the films by blowing bubbles of a polymer-nanoparticle suspension through a die. The bubble film could then be made into wafers, flexible sheets or curved surfaces. Lieber made sheets measured up to 225 mm by 300 mm, but says he believes the process could be adapted to make nanocomposites on a metre scale.

Nature Nanotechnology 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.

It is encouraging to see that once again nanotechnology draws the interests of the best students.


Headline: Science student's talent, passion shine through
News source: The Sacramento Bee, written by Lakiesha McGhee

Alexandra M. Courtis' attraction to science is like an electromagnetic force.

For the past year, the bubbly Davis teenager was drawn to creating fluorescent silicon nanoparticles, bright enough for doctors to more safely see malignant cells in humans.

She conducted experiments every day after school in a lab at the University of California, Davis. Then one day—eureka!

"The moment I saw the flask glowing under ultraviolet light I was excited," Courtis said, recalling her discovery. "I was jumping up and down."

Courtis hit the jackpot again last week. She received a $10,000 prize at the California State Science Fair for her entry, titled "Bright, Luminescent Silicon Nanoparticles for Biological Applications." The entry was selected among hundreds for the senior division of the Patricia Beckman Project of the Year award, which is the top honor.

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Nanodot: A sample from Foresight's blog

Headline: Food workers worried about nanotechnology

Nanowerk brings to our attention a resolution on nanotechnology by a labor group for food and agricultural workers claiming to represent 12 million people. It has a number of sections, but here's an example:

"To demand that national and international patent offices, like the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), decline to register all patent applications utilizing nanotechnology in the food industry and agriculture, until larger issues such as their social and environmental impact have been assessed with the participation of all stakeholders."

Regardless of one's views on the value of patents, this seems likely to delay the development of nanotechnologies in the more law-abiding nations, while not slowing things down in countries which ignore international laws. Is this wise? And is WIPO the right organization to evaluate whether environmental impacts have been assessed well enough, much less social impacts?

The ETC Group has worked hard to get groups such as this union concerned about nanotechnology, and it seems likely that this set of resolutions was instigated by them. I wish I could say that this is helpful, but I can't. Their aim is to slow nanotech down until other goals, such as social justice, are dealt with. I think this approach would delay nanotech benefits, while not delaying use in military aggression and control of civilian populations by nasty governments.

It's true that we will need to address economic disruptions due to nanotechnologies, but this isn't the way to do it.

—Nanodot post by Christine Peterson

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Contact Foresight

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