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Foresight Nanotech Institute Weekly News Digest: August 9, 2006

In this issue:

Nanotechnology That's Good For People

Foresight Challenge: Increasing the health and longevity of human life

Foresight note: Nanoparticles are becoming a likely form of drug delivery for cancer treatment.

Headline: Nanoparticles deliver gene-silencing RNA
News source: NCI Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer

An exciting area in anticancer drug development involves using small interfering RNA (siRNA) molecules to reduce the levels of key proteins involved in the development of malignant cells. Naked RNA molecules are not stable in the bloodstream, however, so researchers are searching for effective methods of delivering intact, functional siRNA agents into tumor cells. Now, work from the University of Aarhus, in Denmark, shows that nanoparticles may serve as suitable delivery vehicles for siRNA.

Writing in the journal Molecular Therapy, a team of researchers headed by Jørgen Kjems, Ph.D., describes its use of the sugar-based polymer chitosan to form self-assembling nanoparticles that entrap siRNA molecules. These nanoparticles, which are stabilized by strong intermolecular interactions between chitosan and negatively charged RNA molecules, are taken up rapidly by tumor cells grown in culture. More importantly, the investigators found that these nanoparticles successfully delivered siRNA molecules into the cytoplasm of the cultured cells, and as a result, reduced production of a key tumor-associated protein by 90 percent.

Foresight Challenge: Increasing the health and longevity of human life

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Nanotechnology That's Good For The Planet

Foresight Challenge: Making powerful information technology available everywhere

Foresight Note: The direct implementation of carbon nanotubes in electronics has been unattainable due to the high heat needed to grow these tubes. This research may have found a solution to the heat problem.

Headline: New method of growing carbon nanotubes to revolutionize electronics
News source: Physorg.com

A new method of growing carbon nanotubes is predicted to revolutionize the implementation of nanotechnology and the future of electronics. Researchers at the University of Cambridge have successfully grown nanotubes at a temperature which permits their full integration into present complementary metal-oxide semiconductor (CMOS) technology (350 °C).

Carbon nanotubes are the driving force for current advances in nanotechnology; they have excellent mechanical and electronic properties, the latter making them extremely attractive for new-generation electronics.

Increasing efficiency through smaller components is the key towards miniaturization of technology. The use of carbon nanotubes could find successful use from sophisticated, niche applications to everyday electronics (mobile phones, computers).

Thus far the growth of nanotubes has been carried out at very high temperatures, and growth below 500 °C was believed impossible. This made the direct implementation of nanotubes into electronic devices unthinkable. Trying to integrate nanotubes above 400-450 °C would in fact damage the inter-metal dielectrics commonly employed in CMOS device fabrication.

A group of researchers at the Department of Engineering at the University of Cambridge, led by Mirco Cantoro, Stephan Hofmann, Andrea Ferrari, and John Robertson, in collaboration with colleagues at the Cambridge Hitachi Laboratory and the Department of Materials Science, University of Cambridge, succeeded in growing single-wall carbon nanotubes at temperatures as low as 350 °C.

Foresight Challenge: Making powerful information technology available everywhere

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Become a member of Foresight

If you are interested in advancing beneficial nanotechnology, please consider becoming a member of Foresight. With your support, Foresight will continue to be the leading public interest voice for nanotechnology that will focus on using this powerful technology to improve the health and well being of people and the planet.

We have membership levels designed for inclusion of all who are interested in our nanotechnology future whether you are a student, individual or corporation.

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Foresight Partners

Small Times NanoCon International 2006 - Updated Program

September 20-22, 2006
Mandalay Bay Convention Center
Las Vegas, Nevada

Small Times NanoCon International 2006 brings together more than 700 leading nanotech executives for three days of information exchange, fast-track networking, and new business development.

The conference schedule has been updated and includes sessions on:

Nano Transportation
Life of a serial nano entrepreneur
Nanotechnology: Big Potential for American Competitiveness
Nano Electronics
Nano Energy
Building Successful R&D Collaboration between Industry & Institution

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Nanotech Research

Headline: Researchers Find Controls to Gold Nanocatalysis

News source: Georgia Tech News Release

Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have made a discovery that could allow scientists to exercise more control over the catalytic activity of gold nanoclusters. The finding — that the dimensionality and structure, and thus the catalytic activity, of gold nanoclusters changes as the thickness of their supporting metal-oxide films is varied — is an important one in the rapidly developing field of nanotechnology. This and further advances in nanocatalysis may lead to lowering the cost of manufacturing materials from plastics to fertilizers. The research appeared in the July 21, 2006 issue of the journal Physical Review Letters.

"We've been searching for methods for controlling and tuning the nanocatalytic activity of gold nanoclusters," said Uzi Landman, director of the Center for Computational Materials Science and Regents' professor and Callaway chair of physics at Georgia Tech. "I believe the effect we discovered, whereby the structure and dimensionality of supported gold nanoclusters can be influenced and varied by the thickness of the underlying magnesium-oxide film may open new avenues for controlled nanocatalytic activity," he said.

Headline: DNA Structure Still Surprises

News source: Science A Go Go

Biological dogma has long held that as a molecule of DNA is stretched, its double helix starts to unwind; but Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory researchers have shown that this is most definitely not the case.

The experiment, reported in Nature, used microscopic beads and magnetic tweezers to observe that when a DNA molecule is stretched, it actually begins to overwind. This overwinding continues until the force being applied to stretch the DNA exceeds about 30 picoNewtons, at which point the DNA double helix did begin to unwind in accordance with predictions.

"DNA's helical structure implies that twisting and stretching should be coupled, hence the prediction that DNA should unwind when stretched," said Berkeley biophysicist Carlos Bustamante, who led this experiment. "That is why it was such [a] surprise when we directly measured twist-stretch coupling to find instead DNA overwinds when stretched. The DNA molecule, when studied at close range, continues to surprise us!"

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Nanotech News

Headline: Formation of an internal FDA Nanotechnology Task Force

News source: News-Medical.net

Acting Commissioner of Food and Drugs Andrew C. von Eschenbach, M.D., today announced the formation of an internal FDA Nanotechnology Task Force. The new task force is charged with determining regulatory approaches that encourage the continued development of innovative, safe and effective FDA-regulated products that use nanotechnology materials.

The task force will identify and recommend ways to address any knowledge or policy gaps that exist so as to better enable the agency to evaluate possible adverse health effects from FDA-regulated products that use nanotechnology materials. FDA will continue to address product-specific nanotechnology-related issues on an ongoing basis.

"As this exciting new area of science develops, FDA must be positioned to address both health promotion and protection challenges that it may present," said Dr. von Eschenbach. "Through this task force, we are leveraging our expertise and resources to guide the science and technology in the development of nanotechnology-based applications."

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Nanotech Events

nanoTX' 06: The Promises of Tomorrow, The Business of Nanotechnology - Updated Speaker Line-up

September 27-28, 2006
Dallas Convention Center, Texas

nanoTX'06 will draw the top minds in four vital and interrelated nanotech areas of commerce:

Semiconductors NEMS/MEMS
BioMedical - Health Sciences
Defense - Aerospace - Homeland Security
Energy - Chemical - Environment

There will also be an intense study of Trends/Finance/Investing by leading experts of industry.

The 2006 Foresight Institute Feynman Prizes will be presented at nanoTX' 06 on September 27, 2006 at the Exhibitors Reception.

Also at nanoTX'06, Foresight president Jillian Elliott will present on the International Technology Roadmap for Productive Nanosystems.

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Editor's Pick

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.

It is has often been said that nanotechnology is an enabling science and that researchers from a variety of disciplines are needed to conduct nanotech research. A paragraph pulled from an article about Derek Lovley, director of the Environmental Biotechnology Center at UMass Amherst, illustrates how a research question was answered by a collaborating team of experts in physics, nanomaterials, and microbiology.

Thanks for reading.

— Judy

Headline: It's Electric! Geobacter is cleaning up pollution; it proves to be a petite powerhouse as well
News source: UMassMag Online

"On the sidelines of their sons' soccer game, Lovley broached the problem with Tom Russell '76G, '79G, a UMass Amherst polymer scientist and nanomaterials expert. One expert led to another, until professor Mark Tuominen and Kevin McCarthy of the Physics Department worked with microbiologist Gemma Ruegera to demonstrate that Lovley's guess was correct. Geobacter have pili (protein wires 20,000 times finer than a human hair) that reach outside the cell to conduct electricity. The pili are more than a thousand times long as they are wide. "An electrically conductive structure like this is unprecedented in biology," says Lovley."

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Join the Discussion on Nanodot

Join the discussion: Nanodot led by Christine Peterson.

Headline: Nanotechnology policy game for public shows bias
News source: Nanodot

Dietram Scheufele writes of an event at the U.K.'s Dana Centre — whose website says "The Dana Centre is sexing up science for the masses" — using a nanotechnology-based card game to get the general public thinking about nanotechnology.

Dietram concludes: "Using a card game that defines clear rules for all players and forces them to examine the issues from all angles, may help counter the detrimental group dynamics and informational gaps that often characterize traditional deliberative meetings with members of the general public." Sounds right.

But as regular readers of Nanodot know, we at Foresight have doubts about how information is being presented to the public in these outreach events. For example, I looked over the card game (PDF), and by my rough count, 35 cards seemed to have a neutral tone, 23 were more negative, and only 14 were more positive. Your count may be different, but I think it's clear that there are more negative cards than positive ones. Who made that decision, and on what grounds? It's unclear.

— Christine

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Contact Foresight

The Foresight Nanotech Institute Weekly News Digest is emailed every week to 15,000 individuals in more than 125 countries. Foresight Nanotech Institute is a member-supported organization. We offer membership levels appropriate to meet the needs and interests of individuals and companies.

Judy Conner, Director of Communications 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 her with comments about the News Digest, please send an email to: editor@foresight.org.

If you would like to browse past issues of the News Digest.

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