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Foresight Nanotech Institute Weekly News Digest: June 20, 2007

Top Nano News of the Week

Foresight note: In this clinical trial, a magnetic field heats up nanoparticles to kill cancer cells.

Headline: Phase I Clinical Trial Shows Nanoparticle-Enabled Thermal Therapy Safe for Treating Cancer
News source: National Cancer Institute's Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer

Several types of metal nanoparticles are capable of converting energy, such as that carried by near-infrared light or an oscillating magnetic field, into heat at a level high enough to kill tumors. Now, a recently completed Phase I clinical trial in patients with recurrent prostate cancer has shown that magnetic nanoparticles can be safely administered to humans and will produce localized tumor-killing temperatures when stimulated by an oscillating magnetic field.

In this issue:

Health: Double-duty nanoparticles overcome drug resistance in tumors
Health: Hybrid gold-dendrimer nanoparticles target and image tumors
Health: Nanoparticle offers promise for treating glaucoma
Clean energy: 'Quantum alloy' discovery leads to $1.2 million hydrogen grant
Information technology: Nanotube circuits made practical
Space: NASA nanotechnology space sensor test successful in orbit
Foresight News: Feynman Prizes in Nanotechnology: Nominations due June 30
Foresight Events: Productive Nanosystems Conference
Advancing Beneficial Nanotechnology - Join Foresight
Conference – SmallTimes NanoCon International
Toward Productive Nanosystems: 250 atoms trapped in a 3D array
Editor's Pick: Growing mammalian cells on nanowires
Nanodot: Enough with the wet/dry debate already
Contact Foresight

Nanotechnology that's Good For People

Foresight Challenge: Improving health and longevity

Headline: Double-duty nanoparticles overcome drug resistance in tumors
News source: National Cancer Institute's Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer

Cancer cells, like bacteria, can develop resistance to drug therapy. In fact, research suggests strongly that multidrug resistant cancer cells that remain alive after chemotherapy are responsible for the reappearance of tumors and the poor prognosis for patients whose cancer recurs. Indeed, multidrug resistance occurs in over 50% of patients whose ovarian cancer relapses, accounting in large part for the high mortality associated with ovarian cancer.

In an attempt to circumvent the mechanisms that cancer cells use to avoid cell death following chemotherapy, researchers at Northeastern University, led by Mansoor Amiji, Ph.D., have created a polymeric nanoparticle that delivers a one-two punch to multidrug resistant ovarian cancer cells. The first blow comes from the drug ceramide, which overwhelms an enzyme that drug-resistant tumor cells use to avoid apoptosis, the programmed cell death that chemotherapy triggers. The nanoparticle delivers its second blow in the form of paclitaxel, a potent anticancer agent used as a first-line therapy for ovarian cancer.

Cancer Research abstract

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Foresight Challenge: Improving health and longevity

Headline: Hybrid gold-dendrimer nanoparticles target and image tumors
News source: News source: National Cancer Institute's Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer

Dendrimer nanoparticles, made of spherical, highly branched polymers, have shown promise as drug delivery vehicles capable of targeting tumors with large doses of anticancer drugs. Dendrimer nanoparticles have also been used to entrap metal nanoparticles, a combination that could serve as a potent imaging and thermal therapy agent for tumors if it were not for associated toxicity issues that researchers have had a difficult time overcoming.

To eliminate the toxicity associated with dendrimer-metal nanoparticle combinations, a team led by James Baker, Jr., M.D., principal investigator of a National Cancer Institute Cancer Nanotechnology Platform Partnership at the University of Michigan, has developed methods for modifying the surface of dendrimers laden with gold nanoparticles. This chemical treatment greatly reduces the toxicity of the hybrid nanoparticle without changing its size.

Small abstract

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Foresight Challenge: Improving health and longevity

Headline: UCF nanoparticle offers promise for treating glaucoma
Nanoparticle could help millions affected by disease, which can cause blindness
News source: University of Central Florida, via AAAS EurekAlert

A unique nanoparticle made in a laboratory at the University of Central Florida is proving promising as a drug delivery device for treating glaucoma, an eye disease that can cause blindness and affects millions of people worldwide.

"The nanoparticle can safely get past the blood-brain barrier making it an effective non-toxic tool for drug delivery," said Sudipta Seal, an engineering professor with appointments in UCF's Advanced Materials Processing and Analysis Center and the Nanoscience Technology Center.

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Nanotechnology that's Good For the Planet

Foresight Challenge: Providing renewable clean energy

Headline: UT-ORNL professor's discovery leads to $1.2 million hydrogen grant
News source: University of Tennessee at Knoxville, via AAAS EurekAlert

A unique discovery being published this week by University of Tennessee Knoxville scientists has led to a $1.2 million grant to help overcome roadblocks facing the wide-scale use of hydrogen as a national energy source.

Hanno Weitering, a professor of physics and joint faculty member between UT and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, found that by adding small amounts of the element bismuth to an extremely thin film of lead atoms, he could fine-tune the stability and physical properties of the newly made "quantum alloy."

[Weitering said] "…if we can change physical properties in this manner, it raises the question of whether we could also tune a material's chemical properties."

…that is the question Weitering will address with a $1.2-million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to study how electronic growth might influence the efficiency of hydrogen fuel cells.

Science abstract

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Foresight Challenge: Making information technology available to all

Headline: Nanotube circuits made practical
Software can predict the best designs for fabricating logic gates from disorganized carbon nanotubes.
News source: Technology Review, written by Kate Greene

Many experts believe that carbon nanotubes could eventually replace silicon in microelectronics because of their potential for superior speed and reduced power consumption. And over the past several years, researchers have made transistors out of carbon nanotubes. However, it's still difficult to make reliable circuits out of them. One problem is that the nanotubes, used for transistors that make up the circuits, tend to be fabricated in different directions, making it impossible to know which nanotube form[s] which transistor. And such a chaotic arrangement can lead to electrical malfunctions. But now researchers at Stanford University have written a program that finds a working circuit layout, no matter how disorganized or misaligned the nanotubes.

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Foresight Challenge: Enabling space development

Headline: NASA nanotechnology space sensor test successful in orbit
News source: PhysOrg.com

NASA recently tested the first nanotechnology-based electronic device to fly in space. The test showed that the "nanosensor" could monitor trace gases inside a spaceship. This technology could lead to smaller, more capable environmental monitors and smoke detectors in future crew habitats.

"The nanosensor worked successfully in space," said Jing Li, a scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center in California's Silicon Valley. Li is the principal investigator for the test. "We demonstrated that nanosensors can survive in space conditions and the extreme vibrations and gravity change that occur during launch," she said.

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Foresight News

Feynman Prizes in Nanotechnology: Nominations due June 30

Top Nanotech Researchers to be Honored at Productive Nanosystems Conference

Two prestigious nanotechnology prizes will be awarded at Productive Nanosystems: Launching the Technology Roadmap, a conference sponsored by Foresight Nanotech Institute and the Society of Manufacturing Engineers with the support of Battelle, to be held on October 9-10, 2007 in Arlington, Virginia.

Press release

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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 Teri Odom, Assistant Professor, Department of Chemistry, Northwestern University. Says Odom: "We should care about nanotechnology because it can excite even the most jaded student of science. We have creative license to think about how new discoveries in science and engineering can be combined in ways to address hard problems." Join Foresight and help steer nanotech in the directions you personally support most!

Odom interview on page 11 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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Toward Productive Nanosystems

Foresight note: This atom trap that can hold hundreds of atoms in a 3D array and image each atom individually is being hailed as an important step in developing a quantum computer. If this method could be applied to atoms able to form networks of strong bonds, and if bond formation by individual atoms could be manipulated, it could be a step along a path toward productive nanosystems.

Headline: Atom trap is a step towards a quantum computer
News source: NewScientist.com news service, written by Mason Inman

A device that can hold hundreds of atoms in a 3D array, and image each one individually, has been developed by scientists in the US.

…the team used three lasers arranged at right angles to create a 3D lattice in which they trapped 250 atoms of cesium.

The researchers then photographed the atoms in the array, layer by layer, proving that they could see each one. "If you can't see them, it's much harder to manipulate them individually," Weiss says. But, he adds, because they can make out individual atoms, "it's pretty clear that we should be able to manipulate them independently of each other".

Nature Physics 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.

The demonstration of a functional interface between living cells and nanowires points to a future in which complex nanosystems will monitor and maintain healthy cells.

— Jim

Headline: Growing mammalian cells on nanowires provides novel view of cell activity
News source:

A research team at the University of California, Berkeley, has achieved a significant step toward one of the futuristic goals of nanomedicine and nanobiology—developing technology for "wiring" together individual cells. This demonstration opens the way to connect cells via nanowires to external sensors and other devices for real-time monitoring of intracellular biochemical processes.

… a team led by Bruce Conklin, Ph.D., and Peidong Yang, Ph.D., report what they claim to be the first demonstration of a direct nanowire connection to individual mammalian cells without the use of force that can damage or kill cells. The investigators connected human embryonic kidney cells and mouse embryonic stem cells to silicon nanowires, using an approach in which the wires penetrated into cells naturally as the cells grew in cultures.

Journal of the American Chemical Society abstract

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Nanodot: A sample from Foresight's blog

Headline: Nanotechnology: Enough with the wet/dry debate already

Nanowerk brings to our attention some confusion on an IEEE blog:

"Somewhere along the line, the advocates for molecular nanotechnology (MNT) seem to have lost interest in actually seeing molecular manufacturing come to pass if it meant that the concepts of the mechanically engineered approach (Dry) are abandoned in favor of a biologically engineered method (Wet)…

"What is curious about all this is that a quick perusal of the Foresight Institute's blog Nanodot provides a number of examples of research and papers on biologically inspired 'nanobots' and 'nanotechnology' and little in experimentation on mechanosynthesis nanotechology:
Meet the Nubot: DNA nanotechnology robots
Nature's nanotechnology motors to inspire future machines"

Wet approaches have always been very popular here at Foresight, and also with the Technology Roadmap for Productive Nanosystems, as will be clear shortly when the launch conference program is posted.

There is some debate on how "dry" eventual nanosystems can be. To date, I have not heard conclusive arguments that they can't be quite dry indeed. Time will tell. Meanwhile, there's plenty of enthusiasm for different pathways, wet and dry, as the Roadmap launch conference will discuss.

I have dealt with this issue before. Let's hope it will now quiet down. Multiple R&D pathways should be and are being pursued; they will all have payoffs of one kind or another, and we should expect interesting and profitable synergies as well.

—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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