Articles from February 2014



Drink Coffee To Fight Cancer

A team of researchers from the University of Groningen – Netherlands – and the Université de Bourgogne – France – stated that combining a caffeine-based compound with a small amount of gold could be used as an anticancer agent.
Angela Casini, Ewen Bodio, Michel Picquet and colleagues note that caffeine and certain caffeine-based compounds have recently been in the spotlight as possible anticancer treatments. But drinking gallons of coffee, sodas and energy drinks isn’t the solution. And the regular caffeine in these drinks would start to have negative effects on healthy cells, too, at the levels necessary to kill cancerous ones. Gold also can wipe out cancer cells, but, like caffeine, it can harm healthy cells. So, the research team put the two together into certain configurations to see whether the new caffeine-based gold compounds could selectively stop cancer cells from growing without hurting other cells. They made a series of seven new compounds, called caffeine-based gold (I) N-heterocyclic carbenes, in the laboratory and studied them. The scientists found that, at certain concentrations, one of the compounds of the series selectively killed human ovarian cancer cells without harming healthy cells. In addition, the compound targeted a type of DNA architecture, called “G-quadruplex,” that is associated with cancer.
What we need is to design precisely a compound which will present a maximum of efficiency to destroy cancerous cells without harming healthy tissues“, says Ewen Bodio, from the Université de Bourgogne, one of the co-authors of the study. “We did test in laboratory on tissues and cancerous cells. The next step will be the administration of the compound to mice. If the results are positive, then perhaps after 5 years we will try human tests“.

The findings are published in the ACS journal Inorganic Chemistry .
Source: http://www.acs.org/

How To Create Complex Nanoparticles In One Step

Nanoparticle research is huge. With implications in many avenues of science, from biomedicine to laser research, the study of how to create nanoparticles with desirable properties is becoming increasingly important. Maria Benelmekki from the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST)- Japan – and researchers in Mukhles Sowwan’s Nanoparticles by Design Unit recently made a breakthrough in synthesizing biomedically relevant nanoparticles.
Hybrid nanoparticles with four and three multicomponent cores (Iron-Silver) embedded in a biocompatible shell (Silicon)
Nanoparticles can be used in medicine for imaging during diagnosis and treatment. Other applications include targeted drug delivery and wound healing. However, creating nanoparticles for use in biomedicine presents many challenges. Currently, nanoparticles are primarily made using chemicals, which is a problem when using them for medical purposes because these chemicals may be harmful to the patient. Additional issues are that the fabrication process takes several steps, the size of the particles is difficult to control and the particles can only survive in storage for a relatively short amount of time. Benelmekki and colleagues have created biocompatible ternary nanoparticles, meaning they consist of 3 parts that each exhibit a useful property, and have done it without the use of chemicals. The new method allows for easy manipulation of the size of the particles to tailor-make them for a variety of uses all in one step. The researchers have also developed a method that provides better stability for longer storage.

The findinds have been published in the journal Nanoscale.
Source: http://www.oist.jp/

NanoDiamonds To Fight Glaucoma

By 2020, nearly 80 million people are expected to have glaucoma, a disorder of the eye that, if left untreated, can damage the optic nerve and eventually lead to blindness. Now researchers from the UCLA School of Dentistry have created a drug delivery system that may have less severe side effects than traditional glaucoma medication and improve patients‘ ability to comply with their prescribed treatments. The scientists bound together glaucoma-fighting drugs with nanodiamonds and embedded them onto contact lenses. The drugs are released into the eye when they interact with the patient’s tears. The study, led by Dr. Dean Ho, professor of oral biology and medicine and co-director of the Jane and Jerry Weintraub Center for Reconstructive Biotechnology at the UCLA School of Dentistry, appears online in the peer-reviewed journal ACS Nano.

Even with the nanodiamonds embedded, the lenses still possessed favorable levels of optical clarity. And, although mechanical testing verified that they were stronger than normal lenses, there were no apparent changes to water content, meaning that the contact lenses’ comfort and permeability to oxygen would likely be preserved

Delivering timolol through exposure to tears may prevent premature drug release when the contact lenses are in storage and may serve as a smarter route toward drug delivery from a contact lens.” said Kangyi Zhang, co-first author of the study and a graduate student in Ho’s lab.
In addition to nanodiamonds’ promise as triggered drug-delivery agents for eye diseases, they can also make the contact lenses more durable during the course of insertion, use and removal, and more comfortable to wear,” said Ho.

Previous UCLA studies have shown that nanodiamonds could potentially be used to address other diseases and disorders, including cancer and osteonecrosis of the jaw.
Source: http://newsroom.ucla.edu/

Light Releases Chemotherapy Inside Cancer Cells

Researchers from the cancer nanotechnology and signal transduction and therapeutics programs of UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center (JCCC) have developed an innovative technique that can carry chemotherapy safely and release it inside cancer cells when triggered by two-photon laser in the infrared red wave length. Drs. Jeffrey Zink, professor of chemistry and biochemistry, and Fuyu Tamanoi, professor of microbiology, immunology and molecular genetics, and colleagues published their findings in the journal Small online ahead of print on February 20, 2014.
A light-activated drug delivery system is particularly promising, because it can accomplish spatial and temporal control of drug release. Finding ways to deliver and release anticancer drugs in a controlled manner that only hits the tumor can greatly reduce the amount of side effects from treatment, and also greatly increase the cancer-killing efficacy of the drugs. The difficulty of treating cancer often derives from the difficulties of getting anticancer chemotherapy drugs to tumor cells without damaging healthy tissue in the process. Many cancer patients experience treatment side effects that are the result of drug exposure to healthy tissues.
A major challenge in the development of light-activated drug delivery is to design a system that can respond to tissue-penetrating light. Drs. Tamanoi and Zink joined their diverse teams and collaborated with Dr. Jean-Olivier Durand at University of Montpellier, France, to develop a new type of microscopic particles (nanoparticles) that can absorb energy from tissue-penetrating light that releases drugs in cancer cells.

Another feature of the nanoparticles is that they are fluorescent and thus can be tracked in the body with molecular imaging techniques. This allows the researchers to track the progress of the nanoparticle into the cancer cell to insure that it is in its target before light activation.

We have a wonderful collaboration,” said Zink, “when the JCCC brings together totally diverse fields, in this case a physical chemist and a cell signaling scientist, we can do things that neither one could do alone.”
Our collaboration with scientists at Charles Gerhardt Institute (University of Montpellier) was important to the success of this two-photon activated technique,” said Tamanoi, “which provides controls over drug delivery to allow local treatment that dramatically reduces side effects.”

Source: http://www.newswise.com/

Nanoparticles Target Arteries To fight Heart Disease

Clemson University – South Carolina – researchers have developed nanoparticles that can deliver drugs targeting damaged arteries, a non-invasive method to fight heart disease. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. One of the standard ways to treat clogged and damaged arteries currently is to implant vascular stents, which hold the vessels open and release such drugs as paclitaxel. The researchers, led by Clemson bioengineering professor Naren Vyavahare, hope their advanced nanoparticles could be used alongside stents or in lieu of them.
hypertension
Healthy arteries have elastic fibers that provide elasticity. They are like rubber bands in the tissue that allow expansion and recoil during blood flow,” Vyavahare said. “In most cardiovascular diseases, elastic fibers in arteries get damaged, creating hooks that can be used to target drugs.
Source: http://newsstand.clemson.edu/

Implanted Nano Cyborgs For Monitoring Your Health

The debut of cyborgs who are part human and part machine may be a long way off, but researchers say they now may be getting closer. In a study published in ACS’ journal Nano Letters, they report development of a coating that makes nanoelectronics much more stable in conditions mimicking those in the human body. The advance could also aid in the development of very small implanted medical devices for monitoring health and disease.

Charles Lieber and colleagues note that nanoelectronic devices with nanowire components have unique abilities to probe and interface with living cells. They are much smaller than most implanted medical devices used today. For example, a pacemaker that regulates the heart is the size of a U.S. 50-cent coin, but nanoelectronics are so small that several hundred such devices would fit in the period at the end of this sentence. Laboratory versions made of silicon nanowires can detect disease biomarkers and even single virus cells, or record heart cells as they beat. Lieber’s team also has integrated nanoelectronics into living tissues in three dimensions — creating a “cyborg tissue.” One obstacle to the practical, long-term use of these devices is that they typically fall apart within weeks or days when implanted. In the current study, the researchers set out to make them much more stable.

They found that coating silicon nanowires with a metal oxide shell allowed nanowire devices to last for several months. This was in conditions that mimicked the temperature and composition of the inside of the human body. In preliminary studies, one shell material appears to extend the lifespan of nanoelectronics to about two years.

Source: http://www.acs.org/

Electronics You Can Bend And Stretch

Stretchable material technologies have enabled an emerging range of applications that are impossible to achieve using conventional rigid or flexible technologies. Examples can be found in diverse application domains such as roboticS and automation, health care and biomedical technologies, and consumer electronics. The ability to deform a functional substrate so that it can be wrapped around a curved or moving surface, allows for example creating an artificial (robot) skin, wearable on-body sensing systems, or even monitoring moving machine parts or electronic systems that conform to their environment.
Now a team from Gent University in Belgium has developed the first optical circuit that uses interconnections that are not only bendable, but also stretchable using a stretchable material, polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS). Nowadays, more and more (sensing) systems are implemented using optical instead of electrical technologies and it can therefore be expected that in addition to stretchable electrical interconnections, there will also be a need for stretchable optical interconnections.

electronics to bend and stretch
The researchers introduce the concept of stretchable optical interconnections based on multimode PDMS waveguides. To adopt a widely applicable and cost-efficient technology, only commercially available materials are used and the waveguides are patterned using a replication technology based on the capillary filling of PDMS microchannels.

Source: http://www.opticsinfobase.org/

3-D TV Without Glasses

Assistant professor Jayan Thomas, a researcher from University of Central FloridaUCF -, may be on the brink of bringing 3-D- TV back from the dead. Gone are the goofy glasses required of existing sets. Instead, Pr. Thomas is working on creating the materials necessary to create a 3-D image that could be seen from 360 degrees with no extra equipment.
The TV screen should be like a table top,” Thomas said. “People would sit around and watch the TV from all angles like sitting around a table. Therefore, the images should be like real-world objects. If you watch a football game on this 3-D TV, you would feel like it is happening right in front of you. A holographic 3-D TV is a feasible direction to accomplish this without the need of glasses.”

When 3-D TVs first came on the market in 2010, there was a lot of hype and the market expected the new sets would take off. Several broadcasters even pledged to create special channels for 3-D programming, such as ESPN and the BBC. But in the past year, those broadcasters have canceled plans because sales have lagged and the general public hasn’t adopted the sets as hoped. Some say that’s because the television sets are expensive and require bulky equipment and glasses.

Thomas’ approach would use new plastic composites made with nanotechnology to make the 3-D image recording process multitudes faster than currently possible. This would eliminate the need for glasses.
The research team has developed the specific plastic composite needed to create the display screens necessary for effectively showing the 3-D images.
The findings have been published in the journals Nature and Advanced Materials.

Source: https://today.ucf.edu/

Fighting Cancer: Breakthrough In China

Nanoparticles capable of delivering drugs to specifically targeted cancer cells have been created by a group of researchers from China. The multifunctional ‘smartgold nanoshells could lead to more effective cancer treatments by overcoming a major limitation of modern chemotherapy techniques—the ability to target cancer cells specifically and leave healthy cells untouched.

Small peptides situated on the surface of the nanoshells are the key to the improved targeting ability, guiding the nanoshells to specific cancer cells and attaching to markers on the surface of the cells. The acidic environment of the cancer cells then triggers the offloading of the anticancer drugs.

The specific nanostructure of the gold nanoshells could also allow near-infrared light to be absorbed and converted into heat, opening up the possibility of using the nanoshells in targeted hyperthermia treatment — another form of cancer treatment whereby cancer cells are exposed to slightly higher temperatures than usual to destroy them. The researchers, from East China Normal University and Tongji University, used the gold nanoshells as a building block to which they attached the commonly used anticancer drug Doxorubicin (DOX) and a specific peptide known as A54. The gold nanoshells had diameters of around 200 nanometres— more than 50 times smaller than a red blood cell. When tested on human liver cancer cells, the uptake of the nanoshells that had the A45 peptide was three times greater than the uptake of the control nanoshells without the peptide. There was also a significantly reduced uptake of both types of nanoshell by normal healthy cells. The cancer cells were also treated with the gold nanoshells in a heated water bath and were shown to deliver a notable therapeutic effect compared to just the chemotherapy, demonstrating the potential of the hyperthermia treatment.

The therapeutic activity of most anticancer drugs is limited by their systematic toxicity to proliferating cells, including some normal cells. Overcoming this problem remains a great challenge for chemotherapy. In our study we placed a targeting peptide on the nanoshells, which have been demonstrated to be specific to live cancer cells, improving the targeting ability and drug delivery of the gold nanoshells. The next step of our research is to test the ‘smart’ gold nanoshells in vivo on a liver cancer mouse model. We will also examine how the size of the nanoshells changes their efficacy and how efficient the nanoshells are at converting near-infrared light into heat” said lead author of the study Dr Shunying Liu, from East China Normal University.
The first results of the nanoshells’ performance have been published in IOP Publishing’s journal Biomedical Materials.

Source: http://www.iop.org/

Can A NanoSwitch Provoke A Macro Motion?

Researchers of the University of Twente‘s MESA+ research institute – Netherlands – have developed spiral ribbons made of molecules, that are able to convert light into complex macroscopic motion. Therefore, they managed to amplify molecular motion and translate it to the macroscopic world. The research, which was inspired by movement in plants, is published in the journal Nature Chemistry.

NANOSWITCHES CONVERTING LIGHT INTO MACROSCOPIC MOTION
Over the past decades, chemists have constructed various molecular machines, including molecular tweezers and scissors, and even molecular nanocars. However, the motion of molecular machines is generally limited to the nanoworld only. Amplifying the motion of these systems in such a way that they would affect the macroscopic world consequently remains a major contemporary challenge.
Nathalie KatsonisUniversity of Twente’s MESA+ research institute led by principal researcher Nathalie Katsonis have risen up to this challenge. They developed spiral ribbons containing molecular nanoswitches. These spirals curl, twist, contract or expand under the influence of UV light, and might be used to perform work, for instance by shifting magnets.

Source; http://www.utwente.nl/

A Key to Get Into Tumors

Scientists have discovered that a polymer can provide a key to get into tumors: Prof. Prasad Shastri, Director of the Institute of Macromolecular Chemistry and core member of the cluster of excellence BIOSS Centre for Biological Signalling Studies at the University of Freiburg – Germany -, and graduate students Julia Voigt and Jon Christensen have developed a new paradigm to home nanoparticles, containers that measure a few 100 nanometers in size, to endothelial cells. Using just charged polymers with the right affinity for cell lipids the team has developed nanoparticles that can recognize specific cell types simply by their chemical properties. “This is a remarkable discovery, as it allows for the first time to target a specific cell type purely through biophysical principles, and without using the traditional ligand-receptor approach” says Prof. Shastri who led the study that was selected as cover article of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Until now researchers placed molecules on nanoparticles that can latch onto proteins on cell surface – called receptors.

These receptors act as an address or a biological postal code. However in tumors these addresses can change rapidly with time. To solve this lack of precision Shastri and team developed particles that are delivered to endothelial cells using a biophysical approach. “This delivery approach does not require a biological postal code for targeting of nanoparticles and is an important step forward in developing nanoparticle based systems for treating cancers” says Julia Voigt the lead author of the paper.
postal code for cancer
Cancers are very hungry tissues and they need constant nourishment. This is provided through their own supply of blood vessels. “By going after endothelial cells that make up these blood vessels, we can starve the tumor or kill it with one payload” says Jon Christensen who is a co-author on this study and works on tumor metastasis

Source: http://www.pr.uni-freiburg.de/

USA, Russia, China Lead The Nanotechnology Race

It is this breadth of nanotechnology’s potential that makes it vital to America’s future competitiveness. Congressman Lamar Smith, chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, believes that American dominance in the field has enormous economic potential and the ability to create new jobs: “it’s a game-changer that could transform and improve Americans’ daily lives in ways we can’t foresee,” he says. On any measure — patents, private and government-sector investment, academic activity — America has so far been a leader in nanotechnology research and, to a lesser extent, development. Federal funding has helped. From 2000-2013 Congress appropriated some $US18 billion for nanotechnology R&D (although the $US1.7 billion budgeted for 2014 is 8% lower than two years ago). Numbers for private-sector investment are harder to come by, but estimates by Lux Research, a firm of analysts, suggest that by 2010, America’s private sector was investing at least $US3.5 billion a year in nanotechnology-related ventures — far more than its closest global competitors.
So why is the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO), an independent agency that works for Congress and scrutinises how the federal government spends taxpayer dollars, now fretting that America may lose the nanotechnology race? In a new report on nanotechnology manufacturing (or nanomanufacturing) released today and prepared for Congressman Smith’s committee, the GAO finds flaws in America’s approach to many things nano.
The main concern is “the missing middle”. Government, universities and start-ups focus their investment on basic research, proofs of concepts and production at laboratory scale. But to win the global nanotechnology race, says the GAO, America must bridge the gap between such activities and being able to produce the technologies at scale.
RusnanoThe GAO’s experts chide the government for lacking a “grand strategy” and to fall behind China and Russia in annual spending on nanotechnology. Russia in particular, is taking advantage of America’s missing-middle mortality rate. Rusnano, a government-owned fund, is picking up the intellectual property of failed American nanotechnology firms

(The GAO report also comes hot on the heels of a National Science Board study showing that China’s global share of overall high-tech manufacturing rose from 8% to 24% from 2003-2012, close to America’s 27%.)
Source: http://www.businessinsider.com.au/