Foresight Nanotech Institute Weekly News Digest: December 5, 2007
Toward Productive Nanosystems
Headline: Tethered to chip, energy supply that drives sperm could power 'nanobot'
The biological pathway that powers sperm to swim long distances could be harnessed to nanotech devices, releasing drugs or performing mechanical functions inside the body, according to a presentation at the American Society for Cell Biology's 47th Annual meeting…
Mukai and Travis suggest that their work serves as proof of principle that the organization of the glycolytic pathway in sperm might provide a natural engineering solution of how to produce ATP locally on nano devices.
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Clean Water: Nano water pump makes its debut—in theory
Headline: Nano water pump makes its debut—in theory
Physicists in China and the UK have put forward a new design for a nanoscale water pump. The device, which is inspired by the structure of channels in living cells, pushes water molecules in one direction thanks to charges on the surface of a nanotube. If made it could find use in a number of important applications, including chemical separation, water purification, sensing and drug delivery.
The nanopump, designed in simulations by Haiping Fang and colleagues at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, consists of a short single-walled carbon nanotube. Both ends of the tube are embedded in a graphite sheet and the ensemble is placed in a water reservoir…
"We expect the pump could be used to desalinate and purify water, separate chemicals, in sensors and drug delivery," Fang told nanotechweb.org.
Nature Nanotechnology abstract
Headline: "Trojan horse" delivers drug-loaded nanoparticles deep into tumors
… a team of investigators led by Susan Clare, M.D., Ph.D., has developed methods for loading gold nanoshells into precursor cells known as monocytes, which turn into macrophages in the tumor environment. The monocytes, in essence, become nanoparticle-loaded Trojan horses. Once inside the tumor core, the gold nanoshells can be activated using near-infrared light, turning them into miniature thermal scalpels that kill tumors from the inside out. The investigators have successfully demonstrated each of these steps in an in vitro tumor spheroid [small balls of tumor cells that predict response of cancer cells to various anticancer treatments more accurately than do individual cells] model of breast cancer.
Nano Letters abstract
Headline: Polymer cage stabilizes liposome, improves drug delivery
Liposomes, the first type of nanoparticle to achieve clinical use, are remarkably versatile constructs, but they suffer from a general lack of stability. But researchers at the Nanomaterials for Cancer Diagnostics and Therapeutics Center for Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence at Northwestern University have developed a method for stabilizing liposomes within a polymer cage. More importantly, the polymer cage is constructed to fall apart and trigger drug release from the liposome when taken into cells.
Journal of the American Chemical Society abstract
Headline: Blue dye could hold the key to super processing power
A technique for controlling the magnetic properties of a commonly used blue dye could revolutionise computer processing power…
Scientists have demonstrated that they can control the properties in a dye known as Metal Phthalocyanine, or MPc, with the use of magnetism.
Though this technology is still in its infancy, researchers claim that the ability to control the magnetic properties of MPc could have the potential to dramatically improve information processing in the future.
…"We are still a long way off from applying this technology to the home PC. However, in five years time our experiments will demonstrate that we will have the power to unleash the vast potential of information processing at the molecular level," [Dr Sandrine Heutz] said.
Advanced Materials abstract
Headline: Mastering molecular memory
A new molecule that switches shape when triggered by light could lead to nanoscale memory devices, say chemists in Japan.
Hiroshi Nishihara and colleagues from the University of Tokyo have combined photochemistry and electrochemistry to make a molecule that can be switched from one form to another, and then back again, using a single source of light. Previous such photochromic molecules have needed a second light source of a different wavelength to be flipped back to their original state.
Chemical Communications abstract
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.
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"Anticipating advanced nanotechnology" in Update 58
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Looking to understand what nanotechnology means for you? Need to understand how and why nanotechnology can improve your products, process, and may even cut costs? Interested in learning about the latest applications and trends in top-down fabrication and bottom-up assembly techniques? Then this event is for you!
This conference will highlight the current, near-term, and future applications of nanotechnology and how they are transforming the way we manufacture products. Peer networking, information sharing, and technology exchange among the world's nanomanufacturing leaders will be a key feature of the event.
Foresight note: This ambitious nanobiotechnology project is still a number of steps away from producing a nanocapsule for drug delivery, but success could lift the field to a new level of sophistication. Developing a draft model of the atomic structure of these abundant cytoplasmic structures called "vaults", which are three times the size of ribosomes and are involved in transporting materials within the cell and in the multidrug resistance seen in many cancer cells, opens the way to engineering these structures for nanomedical purposes.
Headline: Researchers outline structure of largest nonvirus particle ever crystallized
Researchers at UCLA's California NanoSystems Institute, the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute have modeled the structure of the largest cellular particle ever crystallized, suggesting ways to engineer the particles for drug delivery…
Vaults are large, barrel-shaped particles found in the cytoplasm of all mammalian cells; they may function in innate immunity. As naturally occurring nanoscale capsules, vaults may be useful to engineer as therapeutic delivery vehicles. For the study, the team of researchers proposed an atomic structure for the thin outer shell of the vault…
"These nanostructured vaults offer a human-friendly nanocontainer, like a molecular-level C-5A transport jet, with a cargo hold large enough to encompass a whole ribosome with its hundreds of proteins and nucleic acids, or enough drugs to control a cell," [David] Eisenberg said.
PLoS Biology open-access journal article
Headline: DNA sequencing moves on
A new device that controls the position of DNA molecules inside a nanopore with single nucleotide resolution could revolutionise DNA sequencing claim researchers at IBM Research. The theoretical "DNA transistor", proposed by Stas Polonsky and colleagues of the TJ Watson Research Center in New York, would exploit the interaction of discrete charges on the backbone of DNA with the electric field inside the nanopore…
"Technologies that make reading DNA fast, cheap and widely available could revolutionise biomedical research and herald the era of personalised medicine," Polonsky told nanotechweb.org…
"The ability to move along information-carrying polymers of nucleic acids with single nucleotide precision is vital for the machinery of life," he explained. ... As nanotechnology masters its ability to manipulate single molecules, the question of whether man-made devices can also position themselves along information-carrying polymers with single monomer precision is of practical interest."
Applied Physics Letters abstract
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.
Persistent exploitation of one simple nanostructure (gold nanoparticles) and the molecular recognition properties of DNA is delivering increasingly powerful tools to precisely measure and manipulate gene expression in cells. Once advanced nanotechnology enables the development of medical nanobots, we will already know a lot more about the environment where they will need to operate.
Headline: A flare for gene silencing
US scientists have developed nanoparticle probes coated with DNA that release fluorescent 'flares' when they silence genes inside cells.
Chad Mirkin and colleagues from Northwestern University have made gold nanoparticles covered with short DNA strands that target messenger RNA (mRNA) inside cells. Once they bind to mRNA, the probes release fluorescent 'flares', allowing the entire process to be visualised in real time. The strength of the fluorescence also indicates how much RNA is present in the cell, so the particles could also be used to measure gene expression levels.
Journal of the American Chemical Society abstract
Words can't really get across the essence of the nanoscale and potential of nanotechnology, but images can do much better. That's why Foresight encourages participation in the NanoArt competition…
An article in Small Times by Paul Burrows of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory covers the Technology Roadmap for Productive Nanosystems (TRPN) aimed at Atomically-Precise Manufacturing (APM), a joint project of Foresight Nanotech Institute and Battelle, funded by the Waitt Family Foundation and by Sun Microsystems. Some excerpts…
Like many MIT alumni, I have decidedly mixed feelings about the school, but one program to be entirely pleased with is OCW: OpenCourseWare, the free online provision of MIT course materials. They just reached a major milestone…
Yesterday we highlighted MIT's work in getting their course materials online. But many other schools with courses relevant to nanotech have been working on similar goals, especially UC Berkleley…
Everyone is pursuing private donors for their nanotechnology research, and Israel is very serious about it, matching private nanotech fund donations made from outside the country, as reported in EE Times…
—Nanodot posts by Christine Peterson
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