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Expanded DNA alphabet points to more building blocks for nanotechnology

Foresight Update 27.03—May 23, 2014
ISSN 1078-9731

Nanotech News

Discuss these news stories at http://foresight.org/nanodot.

In this issue:

Expanded DNA alphabet provides more options for nanotechnology

… One way to accomplish [incorporating unnatural amino acids into proteins] would be to expand the DNA ‘alphabet’ from two to three base pairs (that is, from four to six ‘letters’). … In a major advance, [researchers] have engineered a living organism to stably propagate the expanded genetic alphabet. …

Nanotechnology to provide efficient, inexpensive water desalination

Another area in which incremental nanotechnology is poised to make a major contribution to human welfare through increasing control of the atomic structure of bulk materials is Supplying Clean Water Globally. Two recent reports use slightly different chemistries to achieve similar results: water desalination and purification. …

Nanotechnology to provide better solar cells, optical devices

While we work for the eventual development of a nanotechnology that transforms human life via atomically precise manufacturing, the partial control of the configuration of atoms in important materials that is afforded by current nanotechnology promises great near-term advantages. [The effort to provide renewable clean energy] appears soon to profit from advances in controlling the atomic configuration of gallium arsenide nanowires. …

A bird's-eye view of half a century of nanotechnology

… We’ve mentioned Drexler’s new book Radical Abundance here on Nanodot several times during the past year, for example here. Over at The Freeman, Phil Bowermaster discusses Radical Abundance in the context of the conversation about nanotechnology over the past 28 years …

To fight inflammation nanoparticles turn 'naughty' neutrophils into 'nice' neutrophils

A core advantage of nanomedicine is that appropriately designed nanoparticles can be targeted to deliver drugs to a very specific subset of cells in the body. An elegant example of specificity targets immune cells called neutrophils that are actively involved in damaging vascular inflammation while sparing neutrophils in circulation that are needed for other functions. …

Novel nanoparticle efficiently silences gene expression in liver cells

One of the most promising weapons in the arsenal of today’s nanomedicine is to use specially designed nanoparticles to deliver siRNA to specific cells to exploit the power of RNA interference to silence the expression of specific genes. We have cited here progress in using various types of nanoparticles with some success in animal models of different diseases. A novel approach that combines systematic chemical modification of lipopeptides with inspiration provided by natural cholesterol-carrying particles appears close to clinical trials. …

Physicists suppress 'stiction' force that bedevils microscale machinery

Whether or not MEMS (microelectromechanical systems) technology has use as a development path toward productive nanosystems, or atomically precise manufacturing …, the problem of stiction in microscale mechanical systems has been used as a canard to criticize proposals for mechanical molecular machine systems. (For why this criticism is unfounded, see section 6.3.7 of Kinematic Self-Replicating Machines.) Nevertheless, MEMS is in its own right a very useful technology so it is gratifying to see that a solution to the stiction problem may be in sight. …

—Nanodot posts by James Lewis

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