Foresight Nanotech Institute Weekly News Digest: November 22, 2006
Nanotechnology that's Good For People
Foresight note: This nanotechnology research may help cancer victims' blood recover from chemotherapy more rapidly.
Headline: Improving blood stem cell transplants via magnetic nanoparticles
Whether the goal is to separate different types of cells or molecules, methods that rely on the age-old principle of magnetism are a staple among researchers. Now, two reports show that the use of magnetic nanoparticles in bioseparations could have a significant impact on both clinical oncology and basic cancer research.
Reporting its work in the journal Biotechnology and Bioengineering, a research team headed by Maciej Zborowski, Ph.D., demonstrated that magnetic nanoparticles, combined with antibodies, successfully enriches peripheral blood progenitor cells (PBPCs) in samples of whole blood. Clinical trials have shown that PBPCs are more effective than bone marrow transplantation at restoring an individual's blood cells population following high-dose chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
Foresight note: Customized therapies that address genetic predispositions to some diseases may be the result of this research.
Headline: Nanotechnology continues to advance anticancer gene therapy
Given that cancer is a disease in which genetic errors play a major role, it should come as no surprise that many experts envision a time when gene therapy will play an equally important role in the treatment of cancer. But before that day can come, researchers must overcome a major hurdle: safely delivering therapeutic genes and other nucleic acid-based regulatory agents into malignant cells. Enter nanotechnology.
With the ability to sequester a wide variety of molecules and deliver them in a targeted manner to tumors, nanoparticles could prove to be the ideal delivery vehicle for oligonucleotide-based drugs such as anticancer genes, antisense oligodeoxynucleotides, and small interfering RNAs. Recently, for example, a team of investigators led by Huixin He, Ph.D., of Rutgers University, and T.J. Thomas, Ph.D., of the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, demonstrated that dendrimer-based nanoparticles can deliver antisense oligodeoxynucleotides into breast cancer cells.
Nanotechnology that's Good For the Planet
Foresight note: Lead researcher at NASA explains why nanotech is critical to space exploration.
Headline: Scientists busy engineering the future with nanotech
One of the nation's leading nanotechnology experts says his field will play a crucial role in the future of the nation's space agency, which he jokes is the world's "largest weight-watchers program."
Meyya Meyyappan, the chief scientist for exploration technology at NASA's Ames Research Center in California, says reducing the weight and size of spacecraft cuts costs and allows for innovative exploration missions.
"Every pound we lift into near-Earth orbit costs us $10,000, and every pound we lift to the moon or Mars costs $100,000," Meyyappan said in a telephone interview. "You can't tell the astronaut to lose weight, so we have to look for ways to miniaturize computers, cameras, sensors and other equipment. That's why nanotechnology is important to our space efforts."
Nanotechnology is coming and it will have a tremendous impact on our society. What's your priority for nanotechnology: cancer treatments, sustainable energy, clean water, a restored environment, space development, or new manufacturing capabilities? Would you like to help influence the direction of this powerful technology?
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Nanotech Investing Forum
Nanotech Investing Forum
The IBF Nanotech Investing Forum — where VCs, corporate investors and nanotech CEOs unite. This conference provides investors with leading-edge information to profit from nanotech innovation.
This conference will address:
Headline: Scientists design a nanoknife
News source: Science Daily
U.S. scientists say they have designed a carbon nanotube knife that, at least in theory, would work like a tight-wire cheese slicer.
The researchers at the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the University of Colorado-Boulder say such a nanoknife might become a tabletop tool for biologists, allowing them to more precisely cut and study cells.
By manipulating carbon nanotubes inside scanning electron microscopes, the 21st-century "nanosmiths" have begun crafting a suite of research tools, including nanotweezers, nanobearings and nano-oscillators.
To design the nanoknife, the researchers placed a carbon nanotube between two electrochemically sharpened tungsten needles. In the resulting prototype, the nanotube stretches between two ends of a tungsten wire loop. The knife resembles a steel wire that cuts a block of cheese.
News source: Monsters & Critics Science & Nature
U.S. chemists have cut carbon nanotubes into 'seeds' and used those seeds to sprout new nanotubes.
"Carbon nanotubes come in lots of diameters and types and our goal is to take a pure sample of just one type and duplicate it in large quantities," said corresponding author James Tour, director of Rice University's Carbon Nanotechnology Laboratory. "We`ve shown the concept can work."
Headline: Israel looks at the next generation of warfare
News source: Spiegel Online
After its stalemate in Lebanon last summer, Israel needs new way to fight terrorists. The government has announced a new push into nanotechnology to develop tiny flying robots — but what would keep guerrilla fighters from using them?
More than anything else, the war against Hezbollah in Lebanon last summer convinced Israel of the need to research new ways to fight terrorists. One idea has now received funding: that of building small flying robots that can navigate streets and alleyways.
The "bionic hornet," writes Israel's daily Yedioth Ahronoth, could chase, photograph and kill, say, a terrorist hiding with a rocket launcher in a civilian neighborhood — as an alternative to bombing the neighborhood.
The Israeli government plans to invest $230 million in nanotechnology research and development over the next five years, which would make nanoscience one of Israel's most heavily invested R&D fields.
Headline: Nanotech tools yield DNA transcription breakthrough
News source: Medical News Today
Rutgers researcher Richard H. Ebright and his collaborators have resolved key questions regarding transcription, the fundamental life process that was the subject of the 2006 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
Transcription is the first step in the process cells employ to read and carry out the instructions contained in genes. Transcription is carried out by a molecular machine known as RNA polymerase, which synthesizes an RNA copy of the information in DNA.
Two papers by Ebright and collaborators in the Nov. 17 issue of the journal Science define for the first time the mechanisms by which the machine begins synthesis of RNA and then breaks free from its initial binding site to move along DNA to continue synthesizing RNA.
December 4-7, 2006
Sponsored by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the University of Cincinnati, and other partners this conference is the latest in a series of international scientific summits by NIOSH and its partners to stimulate research that is essential for maintaining U.S. leadership in the competitive global nanotechnology market.
Participants will share latest findings, interim recommendations, and practices for managing the occupational and environmental health and safety implications of nanomaterials along the life-cycle of those products. The conference also will explore nanotechnology's potential as a new tool for detecting, preventing, and treating work-related illnesses.
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.
I covered this in last week's news digest but one of the quotes was irresistible. We, as a society, need to be aware of the dangers in new technologies, but nanotechnology has the potential to provide many positive things, including cancer treatments that work, sustainable energy, clean water, a restored environment, and "zero waste" manufacturing."
Headline: Specter of Possible Harm Threatens Nanotech Development
News source: Test and Measurement.com
"Society is in danger of squandering the powerful potential of nanotechnology due to a lack of clear information about its risks," conclude 14 top international scientists in a major paper published in the November 16th issue of the journal Nature. The paper, "Safe Handling of Nanotechnology" identifies Five Grand Challenges for research on nanotechnology risk that must be met if the technology is to reach its full promise.
Headline: Brilliant minds forecast nanotechnology
News source: Nanodot
Over at NewScientist.com, they've collected the 50-year forecasts of 70 "brilliant" scientists. Topics covered include nanotechnology and the control of physical matter, machine intelligence, and life extension. Here are a few excerpts:
Peter Atkins, a Fellow and professor of chemistry at Oxford, on nanobio and synthetic life:
"Computers will continue to illuminate chemistry. It is possible to foresee a time when the details of reactions can be observed, computed and displayed as moving images on an attosecond timescale for molecules as big as enzymes and DNA. The challenge then will be to use this detailed knowledge of the mechanisms of natural life and our ever-increasing skill at controlling reactions to build synthetic life."
Nathan Myhrvold, former CTO of Microsoft, on nanotechnology:
"In recent years researchers have used nanotechnology and quantum mechanics to engineer a new class of materials bearing a far richer internal structure. Some of these metamaterials can perform feats that would have seemed miraculous a few decades ago...The greatest impacts of these materials, though, are likely to come from inventions that no one has thought of yet."
Bill Joy, venture capitalist and former Chief Scientist at Sun Microsystems, on nanotech for energy:
"The most significant breakthrough would be to have an inexhaustible source of safe, green energy that is substantially cheaper than any existing energy source. Ideally such a source would be safe, in that it couldn't be made into weapons, nor would it make hazardous or toxic waste or CO2. It seems to me that this is most likely to come from a deep new understanding of a physical effect at the nanoscale (or smaller) that allows safe and simple access to fusion — or another completely unexpected energy technology."
So, among our brilliant minds we're hearing, for 2056: synthetic life; cheap, clean energy; superhuman machine intelligence; and indefinite human lifespans. These all sound plausible to me — as mentioned here before, fifty years is a long time in technology.
Many readers of this blog will still be around to see these developments as they arrive. (More of you will be than you might think — reaching 100 will not be as rare then as it is now.) It might be a good idea to stay on top of the situation and even help steer it. [See nanodot for how to do this!]
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