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Foresight Nanotech Institute Weekly News Digest: June 13, 2007

Top Nano News of the Week

Foresight note: DNA attached to nanoparticles is giving encouraging results on a form of gradual blindness; RNA on nanoparticles is looking good for viral infections.

Headline: Vision Deficit in retinitis pigmentosa mice corrected with DNA nanoparticles
News source: Pharmalive.com

Copernicus Therapeutics, Inc. announced today that a research team at University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, led by Dr. Muna Naash, Professor of Cell Biology, demonstrated that Copernicus' DNA nanoparticles corrected vision defects in a mouse model of retinitis pigmentosa (RP). These findings were presented at the American Society of Gene Therapy meeting in Seattle, WA. Mutations in genes important in the biology of vision cause RP, a common genetic form of visual impairment affecting nearly 70,000 patients in the United States.

Headline: Copernicus' nanoparticle technology applied to siRNA
News source: Nanotechwire.com

Both DNA nanoparticles as well as nanoparticles made with siRNA are highly resistant to degradative processes that would destroy the therapeutic benefit of the nanoparticles. These findings are significant because siRNAs can be designed to block the expression of specific genes and have the potential to treat numerous human diseases, including viral infections.

In this issue:

Health: Separation of the brightest fluorescent nanotubes opens door to clinical uses
Health: New nanomaterials to deliver anti-cancer drugs to cells
Health: Horseradish, carbon nanotubes and cancer therapy
Clean energy: Carbon nanohorns offer hydrogen storage hope
Clean energy: Ethanol production inside carbon nanotubes
Information technology: Silicon nanowires upgrade data-storage technology
Foresight News: Dr. Pearl Chin named Foresight President
Foresight Events: Productive Nanosystems Conference
Advancing Beneficial Nanotechnology - Join Foresight
Conference – SmallTimes NanoCon International
News: Regulating nanotechnology—incremental approach or new regulatory framework?
Editor's Pick: Excitons reveal nanotube reactions
Nanodot: Maximizing nanotechnology patent benefits
Contact Foresight

Nanotechnology that's Good For People

Foresight Challenge: Improving health and longevity

Headline: Discovery of a method for separating the brightest fluorescent nanotubes opens door to clinical uses
News source: Vanderbilt University, written by David F. Salisbury

…researchers from the Vanderbilt Institute of Nanoscale Science and Engineering (VINSE) have removed an obstacle that has restricted fluorescent nanotubes from a variety of medical applications, including anti-cancer treatments. In a paper published online in the Journal of the American Chemical Society on June 7, they describe a method that can successfully produce large batches of highly fluorescent nanotubes.

"Nanotubes have a number of characteristics that make them particularly suitable for use as contrast agents in cells and tissues," says Tobias Hertel, the associate professor of physics who headed the research. "Now that we know how to separate out the brightest ones, I hope that researchers will begin considering ways to use them in clinical applications."

Journal of the American Chemical Society abstract

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Foresight Challenge: Improving health and longevity

Headline: UCLA researchers develop new nanomaterials to deliver anti-cancer drugs to cells
News source: University of California - Los Angeles, via AAAS EurekAlert

The poor solubility of anticancer drugs is one of the major problems in cancer therapy because the drugs require the addition of solvents in order to be easily absorbed into cancer cells. Unfortunately, these solvents not only dilute the potency of the drugs but create toxicity as well.

In a paper scheduled to be published in the nanoscience journal Small in June, researchers from UCLA's California NanoSystems Institute and Jonsson Cancer Center report a novel approach using silica-based nanoparticles to deliver the anticancer drug camptothecin and other water-insoluble drugs into human cancer cells.

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Foresight Challenge: Improving health and longevity

Headline: Horseradish, carbon nanotubes and cancer therapy
News source: Nanowerk Spotlight, written by Michael Berger

Scientists involved in cancer research are showing a lot of interest in carbon nanotubes (CNTs) …One of the issues in using CNTs for therapeutic applications is the question of how to get them to the desired place within the organism, say a tumor cell… Coupling the CNT with biomolecules, such as proteins, is a good method for targeting specific sites but has the disadvantage of either reducing protein activity or CNT absorption or both. A novel method demonstrates that it is possible to achieve complete retention of enzymatic activity of adsorbed proteins as well as retention of a substantial fraction of the near-infrared (NIR) absorption of [CNTs]. [NIR absorption generates heat that kills the tumor cell.]

Nanotechnology abstract

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Nanotechnology that's Good For the Planet

Foresight Challenge: Providing renewable clean energy

Headline: Carbon nanohorns offer hydrogen storage hope
News source: Cordis News - Brussels,Belgium

Carbon nanohorns could be used to store hydrogen, according to new research from an international team of scientists.

Hydrogen has long been held up as clean alternative to fossil fuels. However, its wider application is being held back because of difficulties finding a safe and economically viable way to store it.

One option [that] is being explored is the possibility of storing hydrogen in porous materials. With their low mass and high capacity for adsorption, carbon nanostructures offer high potential in this respect. However, experiments with carbon nanotubes have thrown up some problems…

Writing in the journal Physical Review Letters, the researchers, from the UK, Spain, France and the US, explain how carbon nanohorns could be used to store hydrogen more effectively than nanotubes.

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Foresight Challenge: Providing renewable clean energy

Headline: Ethanol production inside carbon nanotubes
News source: Nanowerk Spotlight, written by Michael Berger

Researchers in China now have used [carbon nanotube]s loaded with rhodium (Rh) nanoparticles as reactors to convert a gas mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen into ethanol. This appears to be the first example where the activity and selectivity of a metal-catalyzed gas-phase reaction benefits significantly from proceeding inside a nanosized CNT reaction vessel.

Nature Materials abstract

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Foresight Challenge: Making information technology available to all

Headline: Silicon nanowires upgrade data-storage technology
News source: National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), via AAAS EurekAlert

Scientists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), along with colleagues at George Mason University and Kwangwoon University in Korea, have fabricated a memory device that combines silicon nanowires with a more traditional type of data-storage. Their hybrid structure may be more reliable than other nanowire-based memory devices recently built and more easily integrated into commercial applications.

Two advantages the NIST design may hold over alternative proposals for nanowire-based memory devices, the researchers say, are better stability at higher temperatures and easier integration into existing chip fabrication technology.

Nanotechnology abstract

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Foresight News

Foresight Nanotech Institute is very pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. Pearl Chin to the position of President. "Dr. Chin's broad experience will be crucial in furthering Foresight's mission of promoting nanotech's benefits and heading off potential downsides," said Christine Peterson, Founder and Vice President of Foresight Nanotech Institute. Peterson will remain as Vice President.

Press release
Dr. Chin's Bio

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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 Robert Freitas, Senior Research Fellow, Institute for Molecular Manufacturing (IMM) "The key practical issue with medical nanorobotics is: what will it take to build these devices? The answer is that it will take an efficient molecular manufacturing system." Join Foresight and help steer nanotech in the directions you personally support most!

Freitas interview starts on page 7 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 News

Headline: Regulating nanotechnology—incremental approach or new regulatory framework?
News source: Nanowerk Spotlight, written by Michael Berger

The European Commission concluded [in a 2004 report] that the European Union could protect health and environment by using an incremental approach and adapt existing legislation. … a group of scientists in Denmark and Italy decided to take a very product-specific approach and analyze the existing legislation along the life-cycle of three different commercially available products containing nanomaterials. They conclude that the 'incremental approach' could work effectively, provided due explanations and amendments are taken where necessary.

"The major conclusion of our study is that almost every aspect of the various laws and legislations along the life-cycle of products containing nanomaterials needs to be adapted so that nanomaterials are covered within the scope of the laws, definitions are applicable, etc." Steffen Foss Hansen [one of the scientists] explains to Nanowerk.

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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.

Perhaps no other class of nanostructures has received as much attention as have carbon nanotubes. Yet they continue to offer surprises—in this case a better understanding of how electrons and "holes" travel in semiconductors that may lead to tiny probes to detect chemical changes in organelles of individual cells.

— Jim

Headline: Excitons reveal nanotube reactions
News source: Nanotechweb.org, written by Belle Dumé

Visualizing single-molecule reactions on the sidewalls of individual carbon nanotubes show how electron-hole pairs, called excitons, move through these materials, say scientists in France and the US. The results could lead to nanotubes being used as sensors in biological cells as well as provide a better understanding of the excitonic processes that occur in these 1D nanosystems.

Science abstract

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Nanodot: A sample from Foresight's blog

Headline: Maximizing nanotechnology patent benefits

The Bayh-Dole Act of 1980 in the U.S. gives patent rights for federally-funded research done in universities to the universities themselves, in effect. Many people regard this strategy as a succcess, and many countries around the world are copying it. But is this the best way to handle this publicly-funded intellectual property? After over 25 years of running this experiment, it's time to take a look at the results.

Stimulating the comment above is the news from Harvard that about 50 of their nanotech patents are being licensed to one company, Nano-Terra. As reported by the Harvard Crimson newspaper:

"The licensing agreement holds throughout the life of the patents and gives Nano-Terra the exclusive right to develop the technologies for use in military products, environmental testing products, and industrial products, among others…

"Harvard will receive royalties from those products developed from the licensed technologies, and the University will also receive an ownership stake in Nano-Terra."

The assumptions here are that (1) companies need exclusive rights in order to commercialize a technology, and that (2) the public will benefit from the products themselves and (3) the public will also benefit indirectly from the use Harvard makes of the money the school obtains from the company involved. Numbers (2) and (3) seem correct to me, but it is not clear that (1) is always the case. Some technologies might do more good if licensed broadly, or even (gasp) not patented at all. Also, many are beginning to ask, is the pursuit of commercial gain distracting our university personnel from their primary role as educators? It's time—past time—to ask these questions.

Bayh-Dole may be the right tradeoff, or it might not. We need a national conversation on this. Thomas Kalil of UC Berkeley has useful things to say on this complex issue.

—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 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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