Posts belonging to Category biomolecular



Dialysis Membrane Made From Graphene

Dialysis, in the most general sense, is the process by which molecules filter out of one solution, by diffusing through a membrane, into a more dilute solution. Outside of hemodialysis, which removes waste from blood, scientists use dialysis to purify drugs, remove residue from chemical solutions, and isolate molecules for medical diagnosis, typically by allowing the materials to pass through a porous membrane.

Today’s commercial dialysis membranes separate molecules slowly, in part due to their makeup: They are relatively thick, and the pores that tunnel through such dense membranes do so in winding paths, making it difficult for target molecules to quickly pass through.

Now MIT engineers have fabricated a functional dialysis membrane from a sheet of graphene — a single layer of carbon atoms, linked end to end in hexagonal configuration like that of chicken wire. The graphene membrane, about the size of a fingernail, is less than 1 nanometer thick. (The thinnest existing memranes are about 20 nanometers thick.) The team’s membrane is able to filter out nanometer-sized molecules from aqueous solutions up to 10 times faster than state-of-the-art membranes, with the graphene itself being up to 100 times faster.

While graphene has largely been explored for applications in electronics, Piran Kidambi, a postdoc in MIT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, says the team’s findings demonstrate that graphene may improve membrane technology, particularly for lab-scale separation processes and potentially for hemodialysis.

Because graphene is so thin, diffusion across it will be extremely fast,” Kidambi says. “A molecule doesn’t have to do this tedious job of going through all these tortuous pores in a thick membrane before exiting the other side. Moving graphene into this regime of biological separation is very exciting.”

Kidambi is a lead author of a study reporting the technology, published today in Advanced Materials. Six co-authors are from MIT, including Rohit Karnik, associate professor of mechanical engineering, and Jing Kong, associate professor of electrical engineering.

Source: http://news.mit.edu/

The Fountain Of Youth

It’s been a dream of civilizations since the dawn of time: If we can’t live forever, can we at least slow down the aging process and stretch our lives out as long as possible? Now, researchers from Brigham Young University (BYU) say they’ve found that a certain type of physical exercise can slow the aging process within our cells. That ultimately means better health, and physical conditioning that matches the natural age progression of a significantly younger person–as many as nine years younger.

105 years old Champion French cyclist

If it’s not quite the fountain of youth, it’s an intriguing step toward it. I’m also the first to admit that such a big claim deserves a skeptical eye. So let’s dive right into the study and examine what the researchers claim–along with exactly how much exercise we’re talking about here to achieve the results.

 

Researchers at BYU, led by a professor of exercise science named Larry Tucker, studied 5,823 adults who had participated in a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) research project called the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Among many other things, this study kept track of the participants’ daily physical activity. Specifically, it tracked the degree to which these people engaged in 62 types of exercise over a 30-day period.

The CDC study also measured something called “telomere length values.” Telomeres are “the nucleotide endcaps of our chromosomes,” as a BYU press release explained it, continuing: They’re like our biological clock and they’re extremely correlated with age; each time a cell replicates, we lose a tiny bit of the endcaps. Therefore, the older we get, the shorter our telomeres.

Here’s where it gets interesting. By poring through the data in the CDC study, BYU‘s Tucker claims that he was able to correlate people’s relative telomere length with their various levels of physical activity–and he found a surprise. If you think of people’s levels of physical activity as being in four categoriessedentary, low, moderate, and high–Tucker found that people in the first three categories had roughly similar telomere lengths.

But for that last category, the people who engaged in high levels of physical activity had “140 base pairs of DNA [more] at the end of their telomeres” than everyone else. According to Tucker’s paper, which was published in the July 2017 edition of Preventive Medicine, that results in a “biologic aging advantage of nine years.” To put this plainly and in layman’s terms, engage in high levels of physical activity, and your cells are more likely to resemble the cells of a considerably younger person. The BYU researchers had to draw a line somewhere, so for purposes of their study they defined “high levels of physical activity” to mean engaging in 30 minutes of jogging for women, or 40 minutes of jogging for men–and to do it five days per week. That’s the kind of level that requires a commitment, but probably isn’t beyond the abilities of anyone who wants to make a decision to become healthier. And, of course, this isn’t the first study by any means to attempt to find the link between increased exercise, better health, and longer life.

Recently, for example, researchers at the Mayo Clinic reached a similar conclusion for different reasons, finding that people who engaged regularly in high-intensity interval training had cells that were more efficient at creating new proteins–which in turn results in “reversing a major adverse effect of aging.”

Source: https://magazine.byu.edu/
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How To Use Potato Virus To Delay Tumor Progression

Researchers from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in collaboration with researchers from Dartmouth Geisel School of Medicine and RWTH Aachen University (Germany) have adapted virus particles—that normally infect potatoes—to serve as cancer drug delivery devices for mice. But in a recent article published in Nano Letters, the team showed injecting the virus particles alongside chemotherapy drugs, instead of packing the drugs inside, may provide an even more potent benefit.

The researchers discovered injecting potato virus particles into melanoma tumor sites activates an anti-tumor immune system response. And simultaneously injecting the nanoscale plant virus particles and a chemotherapy drugdoxorubicin—into tumor sites further helps halt tumor progression in mice. But surprisingly, when the researchers created and injected combination nanoparticles, where the chemo drug is physically attached to the virus particles, there was not a significant added benefit.

The results are the first to show “vaccinating” mice with potato virus nanoparticles at a cancer site can generate an anti-tumor response. But the results also suggest more complex nanoparticles may not correspond to added therapeutic benefit.

It’s attractive to want to create multifunctional nanoparticles that can ‘do it all,’” said Nicole F. Steinmetz, PhD, senior author on the study, George J. Picha Professor in Biomaterials, member of the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center, and Director of the Center for Bio-Nanotechnology at Case Western Reserve School of Medicine.But this study shows significant therapeutic efficacy, including prolonging survival, requires a more step-wise approach. When the plant-based virus particles and the drugs were able to work on their own, we saw the greatest benefit.”

Wrote the authors, “While the nanomedicine field strives to design multifunctional nanoparticles that integrate several functions and therapeutic regimens into single nanoparticle – our data suggest a paradigm shift; some therapeutics may need to be administered separately to synergize and achieve most potent therapeutic outcome.”

Source: http://casemed.case.edu/

NanoRobots Trap Bacteria And Clean Water

The lack of clean water in many areas around the world is a persistent, major public health problem. One day, tiny robots could help address this issue by zooming around contaminated water and cleaning up disease-causing bacteria. Scientists from the Max-Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems (Germany) and  the Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia (IBEC) report a new development toward this goal in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces.

Drinking water contaminated with pathogenic bacteria can cause serious illnesses that, in areas with spotty medical services, are potentially life-threatening without proper treatment. Water can be disinfected with chlorine or other disinfectants, but there are some hardy bacteria and other microorganisms that are hard to remove. Treating water with a combination of disinfectants or increasing their concentrations can help. But they remain in the water, and their byproducts can be harmful to human health. In recent years, researchers have been exploring the use of self-propelled micromotors to degrade and capture pollutants in water. Building on this work, Diana Vilela, Samuel Sánchez Ordóñez (IBEC) and colleagues wanted to see if they could engineer tiny robots to remove waterborne bacteria.

The team designed “two-facedspherical particles to perform the task. One face is made with magnesium, which reacts with water to produce hydrogen bubbles to propel the microbots. The other face is made out of alternating iron and gold layers topped by silver nanoparticles. Bacteria stick to the gold and are killed by the silver nanoparticles. Lab testing showed that the particles can motor around in water for 15 to 20 minutes before the magnesium is spent. And they trapped more than 80 percent of E. coli in water spiked with a high concentration of the bacteria. Then, because of the iron’s magnetic properties, the microbots are removed easily with a magnet, without leaving behind any harmful waste in the water.

Source: http://pubs.acs.org/

How To Boost Body’s Cancer Defenses

After radiation treatment, dying cancer cells spit out mutated proteins into the body. Scientists now know that immune system can detect these proteins and kill cancer in other parts of the body using these protein markers as a guide – a phenomenon that University of North Carolina Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center (UNC Lineberg) scientists are looking to harness to improve cancer treatment.

In the journal Nature Nanotechnology, the researchers report on strides made in the development of a strategy to improve the immune system’s detection of cancer proteins by using “stickynanoparticles called “antigen-capturing nanoparticles.” They believe these particles could work synergistically with immunotherapy drugs designed to boost the immune system’s response to cancer.

Our hypothesis was that if we use a nanoparticle to grab onto these cancer proteins, we’d probably get a more robust immune response to the cancer,” said the study’s senior author Andrew Z. Wang, MD, a UNC Lineberger member and associate professor in the UNC School of Medicine Department of Radiation Oncology. “We think it works because nanoparticles are attractive to the immune system. Immune cells don’t like anything that’s nano-sized; they think they are viruses, and will respond to them.”

Radiation therapy is commonly used to treat a wide array of cancers. Previously, doctors have observed a phenomenon they call the “abscopal effect,” in which a patient experiences tumor shrinkage outside of the primary site that was treated with radiation. This observation in a single patient with melanoma was reported in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2012.

Scientists believe this occurs because, after radiation, immune cells are recruited to the tumor site. Once they’ve arrived, these immune cells use mutated proteins released by dying cancer cells to train other immune cells to recognize and fight cancer elsewhere. This effect works synergistically with immunotherapy drugs called “checkpoint inhibitors,” which release the immune system’s brakes, thereby helping the body’s own defense system to attack the cancer.

Cancer cells discharge these mutated proteins – which become markers for the immune system — as a result of genetic mutations, said study co-author Jonathan Serody, MD, UNC Lineberger’s associate director for translational research.

The theory is that in cancer, tumors accumulate large numbers of mutations across their genomes, and those mutated genes can make mutant proteins, and any of those mutant proteins can be chopped up and presented to the immune system as a foreign,” said Serody, who is also the Elizabeth Thomas Professor in the UNC School of Medicine. “Your body is designed not to respond to its own proteins, but there’s no system that controls its response to new proteins, and you have a broad array of immune cells that could launch a response to them.

The UNC Lineberger researchers demonstrated in preclinical studies they could successfully design nanoparticles to capture mutated proteins released by tumors. Once these nanoparticles are taken up by immune cells, the tumor proteins attached to their surface can help immune cells recognize identify cancer cells across body.

Source: http://unclineberger.org/

How To Repair Connections Between Nerve Cells

Carbon nanotubes exhibit interesting characteristics rendering them particularly suited to the construction of special hybrid devices – consisting of biological tissue and synthetic material – planned to re-establish connections between nerve cells, for instance at spinal level, lost on account of lesions or trauma. This is the result of a piece of research published on the scientific journal Nanomedicine: Nanotechnology, Biology, and Medicine conducted by a multi-disciplinary team comprising SISSA (International School for Advanced Studies), the University of Trieste, ELETTRA Sincrotrone and two Spanish institutions, Basque Foundation for Science and CIC BiomaGUNE. More specifically, researchers have investigated the possible effects on neurons of the interaction with carbon nanotubes. Scientists have proven that these nanomaterials may regulate the formation of synapses, specialized structures through which the nerve cells communicate, and modulate biological mechanisms, such as the growth of neurons, as part of a self-regulating process. This result, which shows the extent to which the integration between nerve cells and these synthetic structures is stable and efficient, highlights the great potentialities of carbon nanotubes as innovative materials capable of facilitating neuronal regeneration or in order to create a kind of artificial bridge between groups of neurons whose connection has been interrupted. In vivo testing has actually already begun.

Scientists have proven that these nanomaterials may regulate the formation of synapses, specialized structures through which the nerve cells communicate, and modulate biological mechanisms, such as the growth of neurons, as part of a self-regulating process

Interface systems, or, more in general, neuronal prostheses, that enable an effective re-establishment of these connections are under active investigation” explain Laura Ballerini (SISSA) and Maurizio Prato (UniTSCIC BiomaGUNE), coordinating the research project. “The perfect material to build these neural interfaces does not exist, yet the carbon nanotubes we are working on have already proved to have great potentialities. After all, nanomaterials currently represent our best hope for developing innovative strategies in the treatment of spinal cord injuries“. These nanomaterials are used both as scaffolds, a supportive framework for nerve cells, and as means of interfaces releasing those signals that empower nerve cells to communicate with each other.

Source: https://eurekalert.org/

Building Brain-Inspired AI Supercomputing System

IBM (NYSE: IBM) and the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) today announced they are collaborating on a first-of-a-kind brain-inspired supercomputing system powered by a 64-chip array of the IBM TrueNorth Neurosynaptic System. The scalable platform IBM is building for AFRL will feature an end-to-end software ecosystem designed to enable deep neural-network learning and information discovery. The system’s advanced pattern recognition and sensory processing power will be the equivalent of 64 million neurons and 16 billion synapses, while the processor component will consume the energy equivalent of a dim light bulb – a mere 10 watts to power.
IBM researchers believe the brain-inspired, neural network design of TrueNorth will be far more efficient for pattern recognition and integrated sensory processing than systems powered by conventional chips. AFRL is investigating applications of the system in embedded, mobile, autonomous settings where, today, size, weight and power (SWaP) are key limiting factors. The IBM TrueNorth Neurosynaptic System can efficiently convert data (such as images, video, audio and text) from multiple, distributed sensors into symbols in real time. AFRL will combine this “right-brain perception capability of the system with the “left-brain” symbol processing capabilities of conventional computer systems. The large scale of the system will enable both “data parallelism” where multiple data sources can be run in parallel against the same neural network and “model parallelism” where independent neural networks form an ensemble that can be run in parallel on the same data.

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AFRL was the earliest adopter of TrueNorth for converting data into decisions,” said Daniel S. Goddard, director, information directorate, U.S. Air Force Research Lab. “The new neurosynaptic system will be used to enable new computing capabilities important to AFRL’s mission to explore, prototype and demonstrate high-impact, game-changing technologies that enable the Air Force and the nation to maintain its superior technical advantage.”

“The evolution of the IBM TrueNorth Neurosynaptic System is a solid proof point in our quest to lead the industry in AI hardware innovation,” said Dharmendra S. Modha, IBM Fellow, chief scientist, brain-inspired computing, IBM Research – Almaden. “Over the last six years, IBM has expanded the number of neurons per system from 256 to more than 64 million – an 800 percent annual increase over six years.’’

Source: https://www-03.ibm.com/

Artificial Intelligence At The Hospital

Diagnosing cancer is a slow and laborious process. Here researchers at University Hospital Zurich painstakingly make up biopsy slides – up to 50 for each patient – for the pathologist to examine for signs of prostate cancer. A pathologist takes around an hour and a half per patient – a task IBMs Watson supercomputer is now doing in fractions of a second.

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“If the pathologist becomes faster by using such a system I think it will pay off. Because my time is also worth something. If I sit here one and a half hours looking at slides, screening all these slides, instead of just signing out the two or three positive ones, and taking into account that there may be a .1 error rate, percent error rate. this will pay off, because I can do in one and a half hours at the end five patients,” says Dr. Peter Wild, University Hospital Zürich.

The hospital’s archive of biopsy images is being slowly fed into Watson – a process that will take years. But maybe one day pathologists won’t have to view slides through a microscope at all. Diagnosis is not the only area benefiting from AI. The technology is helping this University of Sheffield team design a new drug that could slow down the progress of motor neurone disease. A system built by British start-up BenevolentAI is identifying new areas for further exploration far faster than a person could ever hope to.

Benevolent basically uses their artificial intelligence system to scan the whole medical and biomedical literature. It’s not really easy for us to stay on top of millions of publications that come out every year. So they can interrogate that information, using artificial intelligence and come up with ideas for new drugs that might be used in a completely different disease, but may be applicable on motor neurone disease. So that’s the real benefit in their system, the kind of novel ideas that they come up with,” explains Dr. Richard Mead, Sitran, University of Sheffield. BenevolentAI has raised one hundred million dollars in investment to develop its AI system, and help revolutionise the pharmaceutical industry.

Source: http://www.reuters.com/

Skin Regeneration

A small U.S. biotech has successfully regenerated skin and stimulated hair growth in pigs with burns and abrasions, paving the way for a scientific breakthrough that could lead to the regeneration of fully functional human skinSalt Lake City-based PolarityTE Inc‘s patented approach to tissue engineering is designed to use a patient’s own healthy tissue to re-grow human skin for the treatment of burns and wounds. Despite recent advances in reconstructive surgery, plastic surgeons cannot give burn victims what they require the most — their skin. Current approaches to treat serious burns are “severely limited” in their effectiveness and in some cases, are rather expensive, PolarityTE‘s founder and CEO Denver Lough said in an interview.

Epicel, a skin graft widely used in burn units that is sold by Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Vericel Corp, does not result in fully thick and functional skin — which is PolarityTE‘s objective.

“If clinically successful, the PolarityTE platform could deliver the first scientific breakthrough in wound healing and reconstructive surgery in nearly half a century,” said Lough, who served as senior plastic surgery resident at Johns Hopkins Hospital before creating PolarityTE last year.

“PolarityTE expects to begin a human trial later this year and the cell therapy could hit the market 12 to 18 months thereafter”.

PolarityTE conducted its pre-clinical study on wounded pigs at an animal facility in Utah. The use of therapy resulted in scar-less healing, growth of hair follicles, complete wound coverage and the progressive regeneration of all skin layers, the company said. As pig skin is more complex and robust than human skin, successful swine data is typically seen as a precursor to effectiveness in human trials.

The technology also has the potential to develop fully-functional tissues, including bone, muscle, cartilage and the liver, PolarityTE said.

Source: http://www.polarityte.com/
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A Single Drop Of Blood To Test Agressive Prostate Cancer

A new diagnostic developed by Alberta scientists will allow men to bypass painful biopsies to test for aggressive prostate cancer. The test incorporates a unique nanotechnology platform to make the diagnostic using only a single drop of blood, and is significantly more accurate than current screening methods.

The Extracellular Vesicle Fingerprint Predictive Score (EV-FPS) test uses machine learning to combine information from millions of cancer cell nanoparticles in the blood to recognize the unique fingerprint of aggressive cancer. The diagnostic, developed by members of the Alberta Prostate Cancer Research Initiative (APCaRI), was evaluated in a group of 377 Albertan men who were referred to their urologist with suspected prostate cancer. It was found that EV-FPS correctly identified men with aggressive prostate cancer 40 percent more accurately than the most common test—Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) blood test—in wide use today.

Higher sensitivity means that our test will miss fewer aggressive cancers,” said John Lewis, the Alberta Cancer Foundation‘s Frank and Carla Sojonky Chair of Prostate Cancer Research at the University of Alberta. “For this kind of test you want the sensitivity to be as high as possible because you don’t want to miss a single cancer that should be treated.”

According to the team, current tests such as the PSA and digital rectal exam (DRE) often lead to unneeded biopsies. Lewis says more than 50 per cent of men who undergo biopsy do not have prostate cancer, yet suffer the pain and side effects of the procedure such as infection or sepsis. Less than 20 per cent of men who receive a are diagnosed with the aggressive form of prostate cancer that could most benefit from treatment.

It’s estimated that successful implementation of the EV-FPS test could eventually eliminate up to 600-thousand unnecessary biopsies, 24-thousand hospitalizations and up to 50 per cent of unnecessary treatments for prostate each year in North America alone. Beyond cost savings to the health care system, the researchers say the diagnostic test will have a dramatic impact on the health care experience and quality of life for men and their families.

Compared to elevated total PSA alone, the EV-FPS test can more accurately predict the result of prostate biopsy in previously unscreened men,” said Adrian Fairey, urologist at the Northern Alberta Urology Centre and member of APCaRI. “This information can be used by clinicians to determine which men should be advised to undergo immediate prostate biopsy and which men should be advised to defer and continue screening.”

Source:  https://medicalxpress.com/

Farming in Brooklyn

Erik Groszyk used to spend all day at his desk working as an investment banker. Now he cultivates his own urban farm out of a 40-foot shipping container in a Brooklyn parking lot.

I just found myself not satisfied and kind of yearning for more,’ says Erik Groszyk.  The Harvard grad is one of 10 ‘entrepreneurial farmers,’ selected from a batch of 500 applicants, working with Square Roots, an indoor urban farming company launched in November that grows local food year-round in the heart of New York City. Now, six months into the program, Groszyk said his training in farming, artificial lighting, water chemistry and nutrient balance allows him to harvest roughly 15 to 20 pounds of produce each week.

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People have lost trust in the food system, right? They want real food where they know their farmer, they know where their food is coming from, and they trust their food,‘ explains Tobias Peggs, Square Roots co-founder. He, along with his co-founder Kimbal Musk, the younger brother of Tesla‘s Elon Musk, aim to spread out to as many American cities as they possibly can in the next five to 10 years.

By 2050 there will be nine billion people on the planet and 70 percent will leave in urban areas. These people need feeding, and they will want local, real food,” he adds.
Square Roots sells food locally. It also plans to launch more urban farms, for others to operate, and will own a share in those farms’ revenues as well. Peggs says the company, by getting hyper-local, is looking to join a global food revolution. ‘America’s is the world’s great, greatest exporter. Right? We exported rock and roll, we exported Levi’s jeans. We also exported obesity. And the feeling is, if we can solve that, in America, through initiatives like Square Roots, bringing real food to everyone, getting more people on a healthy, low-cost, sustainable food system, that we’ll also be able to export that solution.’

Source: https://squarerootsgrow.com/
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How Yo Make Sea Water Drinkable

Graphene-oxide membranes have attracted considerable attention as promising candidates for new filtration technologies. Now the much sought-after development of making membranes capable of sieving common salts has been achieved. New research demonstrates the real-world potential of providing clean drinking water for millions of people who struggle to access adequate clean water sources. Graphene-oxide membranes developed at the National Graphene Institute have already demonstrated the potential of filtering out small nanoparticles, organic molecules, and even large salts. Until now, however, they couldn’t be used for sieving common salts used in desalination technologies, which require even smaller sieves. Previous research at The University of Manchester found that if immersed in water, graphene-oxide membranes become slightly swollen and smaller salts flow through the membrane along with water, but larger ions or molecules are blocked.

The Manchester-based group have now further developed these graphene membranes and found a strategy to avoid the swelling of the membrane when exposed to water. The pore size in the membrane can be precisely controlled which can sieve common salts out of salty water and make it safe to drink.

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Realisation of scalable membranes with uniform pore size down to atomic scale is a significant step forward and will open new possibilities for improving the efficiency of desalination technology,” says Professor Rahul Raveendran Nair.

The new findings from a group of scientists at The University of Manchester have been published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.

Source: http://www.manchester.ac.uk/
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