Articles from June 2014



Laser + Neuroscience + Nanotechnology To Attack Parkinson’s

Researchers have Combined physics and neurobiology to tackle Parkinson’s Disease. Professor Keshav Dani from the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST) – Japan – Graduate University’s Femtosecond Spectroscopy Unit and Neurobiology Research Unit, along with collaborators at the University of Otago, New Zealand are using lasers, nanotechnology and neuroscience to develop a new, versatile drug delivery system. In a new article in Scientific Reports, the researchers describe their work using a laser to release a neurochemical, the function of which is impaired in Parkinson’s Disease, in a controlled and repeatable manner.


Currently, we administer drugs in a systemic way and tissues or organs that do not need the drug receive it, leading to unwanted side effects. A good example of this is in chemotherapy, which is toxic not only to the intended target cancer cells, but also to healthy tissue

An exciting new area of research for a cure or therapy for many diseases is targeted drug delivery. Recent advances in nanotechnology and biology are opening up the possibilities in targeted drug delivery, where researchers can release drugs or compounds in a specific tissue or even individual cells, which would allow the drug to reach only its intended target. In their recent paper, OIST researchers describe a method to encapsulate a drug in a shell of lipids, or fat, called a liposome, and modulate the release of the drug using a pulse from a laser.

Source: http://www.oist.jp/

Nanotechnology: Food And Drug Administration Rules

Today, 3 final guidances and one draft guidance were issued by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) providing greater regulatory clarity for industry on the use of nanotechnology in FDA-regulated products.
One final guidance addresses the agency’s overall approach for all products that it regulates, while the two additional final guidances and the new draft guidance provide specific guidance for the areas of foods, cosmetics and food for animals, respectively.

Nanotechnology is an emerging technology that allows scientists to create, explore and manipulate materials on a scale measured in nanometers—particles so small that they cannot be seen with a regular microscope. The technology has a broad range of potential applications, such as improving the packaging of food and altering the look and feel of cosmetics.

SILVER NANOPARTICLES

Our goal remains to ensure transparent and predictable regulatory pathways, grounded in the best available science, in support of the responsible development of nanotechnology products,” said FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D. “We are taking a prudent scientific approach to assess each product on its own merits and are not making broad, general assumptions about the safety of nanotechnology products.”

The 3 final guidance documents reflect the FDA’s current thinking on these issues after taking into account public comment received on the corresponding draft guidance documents previously issued (draft agency guidance in 2011; and draft cosmetics and foods guidances in 2012).

The FDA does not make a categorical judgment that nanotechnology is inherently safe or harmful, and will continue to consider the specific characteristics of individual products.
All 4 guidance documents encourage manufacturers to consult with the agency before taking their products to market. Consultations with the FDA, early in the product development process help to facilitate a mutual understanding about specific scientific and regulatory issues relevant to the nanotechnology product, and help address questions related to safety, effectiveness, public health impact and/or regulatory status of the product.
Source: http://www.fda.gov/

Socializing: Just A Brain Circuit To Stimulate

A team of Stanford University investigators has linked a particular brain circuit to mammals’ tendency to interact socially. Stimulating this circuitone among millions in the brain — instantly increases a mouse’s appetite for getting to know a strange mouse, while inhibiting it shuts down its drive to socialize with the stranger.

The new findings, published June 19 in Cell, may throw light on psychiatric disorders marked by impaired social interaction such as autism, social anxiety, schizophrenia and depression, said the study’s senior author, Karl Deisseroth, MD, PhD, a professor of bioengineering and of psychiatry and behavioral sciences.


People with autism, for example, often have an outright aversion to social interaction,” says Deisseroth, a practicing psychiatrist who sees patients with severe social deficits. They can find socializing — even mere eye contactpainful.

Deisseroth pioneered a brain-exploration technique, optogenetics, that involves selectively introducing light-receptor molecules to the surfaces of particular nerve cells in a living animal’s brain and then carefully positioning, near the circuit in question, the tip of a lengthy, ultra-thin optical fiber (connected to a laser diode at the other end) so that the photosensitive cells and the circuits they compose can be remotely stimulated or inhibited at the turn of a light switch while the animal remains free to move around in its cage.

Source: http://med.stanford.edu/

Computing Gloves Teach You Braille And Piano

Several years ago, Georgia Institute of Technology researchers created a technology-enhanced glove that can teach beginners how to play piano melodies in 45 minutes. Now they’ve advanced the same wearable computing technology to help people learn how to read and write Braille. The twist is that people wearing the glove don’t have to pay attention. They learn while doing something else.


The process is based on passive haptic learning (PHL),” said Thad Starner, a Georgia Tech professor and wearable computer pioneer. “We’ve learned that people can acquire motor skills through vibrations without devoting active attention to their hands.”
In their new study, Starner and Ph.D. student Caitlyn Seim examined how well these gloves work to teach Braille. Each study participant wore a pair of gloves with tiny vibrating motors stitched into the knuckles. The motors vibrated in a sequence that corresponded with the typing pattern of a pre-determined phrase in Braille. Audio cues let the users know the Braille letters produced by typing that sequence. Afterwards, everyone tried to type the phrase one time, without the cues or vibrations, on a keyboard.
Seim is currently in the middle of a second study that uses PHL to teach the full Braille alphabet during four sessions. Of the eight participants so far, 75 percent of those receiving PHL reached perfect typing performance.

The sequences were then repeated during a distraction task. Participants played a game for 30 minutes and were told to ignore the gloves. Half of the participants felt repeated vibrations and heard the cues; the others only heard the audio cues. When the game was over, participants tried to type the phrase without wearing the gloves.
Remarkably, we found that people could transfer knowledge learned from typing Braille to reading Braille,” said Seim. “After the typing test, passive learners were able to read and recognize more than 70 percent of the phrase’s letters.”
Source: http://www.news.gatech.edu/

Nano Pacemaker To Extend Cardiac Patients Life

A new type of pacemaker develped by a research team from the University of Bath and the Univerity of Bristol – U.K. – could revolutionise the lives of millions people who live with heart failure in the world. The British Heart Foundation (BHF) is awarding funding to researchers developing a new type of heart pacemaker that modulates its pulses to match breathing rates. Currently, the pulses from pacemakers are set at a constant rate when fitted which doesn’t replicate the natural beating of the human heart. The normal healthy variation in heart rate during breathing is lost in cardiovascular disease and is an indicator for sleep apnoea, cardiac arrhythmia, hypertension, heart failure and sudden cardiac death.
The device works by saving the heart energy, improving its pumping efficiency and enhancing blood flow to the heart muscle itself. Pre-clinical trials suggest the device gives a 25 per cent increase in the pumping ability, which is expected to extend the life of patients with heart failure.


This is a multidisciplinary project with strong translational value. By combining fundamental science and nanotechnology we will be able to deliver a unique treatment for heart failure which is not currently addressed by mainstream cardiac rhythm management devices,” explains Dr Alain Nogaret, Senior Lecturer in Physics at the University of Bath.
One aim of the project is to miniaturise the pacemaker device to the size of a postage stamp and to develop an implant that could be used in humans within five years.
The findings of the research have been published recently in the Journal of Neuroscience Methods.

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

Ninety Nine Percent Of Sunlight May Be Source To Electricity

Rice University scientists have created a one-step process for producing highly efficient materials that let the maximum amount of sunlight reach a solar cell. The Rice lab of chemist Andrew Barron found a simple way to etch nanoscale spikes into silicon that allows more than 99 percent of sunlight to reach the cells’ active elements, where it can be turned into electricity. The more light absorbed by a solar panel’s active elements, the more power it will produce. But the light has to get there. Coatings in current use that protect the active elements let most light pass but reflect some as well. Various strategies have cut reflectance down to about 6 percent, Barron said, but the anti-reflection is limited to a specific range of light, incident angle and wavelength.

Enter black silicon, so named because it reflects almost no light. Black silicon is simply silicon with a highly textured surface of nanoscale spikes or pores that are smaller than the wavelength of light. The texture allows the efficient collection of light from any angle — from sunrise to sunset

Barron and Lu have replaced a two-step process that involved metal deposition and electroless chemical etching with a single step that works at room temperature.

The research by Barron and Rice graduate student and lead author Yen-Tien Lu appears in the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Journal of Materials Chemistry A.
Source: http://news.rice.edu/

Simple Breathalyzer To Detect Lung Cancer

Researchers from Tel Aviv University and partner institutions develop device that spots lung cancer to stop it in its tracks. Lung cancer causes MORE deaths in the U.S. than the next three most common cancers combined (colon, breast, and pancreatic). The reason for the striking mortality rate is simple: poor detection. Lung cancer attacks without leaving any fingerprints, quietly afflicting its victims and metastasizing uncontrollably — to the point of no return. Now a new device developed by a team of Israeli, American, and British cancer researchers may turn the tide by both accurately detecting lung cancer and identifying its stage of progression. The breathalyzer test, embedded with a “NaNosenanotech chip to literally “sniff out” cancer tumors, was developed by Prof. Nir Peled of Tel Aviv University‘s Sackler Faculty of Medicine, Prof. Hossam Haick (inventor) of the TechnionIsrael Institute of Technology, and Prof. Fred Hirsch of the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Denver.
The study, presented at a recent American Society of Clinical Oncology conference in Chicago, was conducted on 358 patients who were either diagnosed with or at risk for lung cancer.


The smell of cancer

Lung cancer is a devastating disease, responsible for almost 2,000 deaths in Israel annually — a third of all cancer-related deaths,” said Dr. Peled. “Lung cancer diagnoses require invasive procedures such as bronchoscopies, computer-guided biopsies, or surgery. Our new device combines several novel technologies with a new concept — using exhaled breath as a medium of diagnosing cancer.”
Our NaNose was able to detect lung cancer with 90 percent accuracy even when the lung nodule was tiny and hard to sample. It was even able to discriminate between subtypes of cancer, which was unexpected,” said Dr. Peled.

Source: http://www.aftau.org/

Detecting Tumour Cells, Thanks To The Camel

The use of nanoparticles in cancer research is considered as a promising approach in detecting and fighting tumour cells. The method has, however, often failed because the human immune system recognizes the particles as foreign objects and rejects them before they can fulfil their function. Researchers at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) and at University College Dublin in Ireland have, along with other partners, developed nanoparticles that not only bypass the body’s defence system, but also find their way to the diseased cells. This procedure uses fragments from a particular type of antibody that only occurs in camels and llamas. The small particles were even successful under conditions which are very similar to the situation within potential patients’ bodies.

With help of proteins, nanoparticles can be produced, which bind specifically to cancer cells, thus making it possible to detect tumours.
At the moment we must overcome three challenges. First, we need to produce the smallest possible nanoparticles. We then need to modify their surface in a way that the proteins in the human bodies do not envelop them, which would thus render them ineffective. In order to ensure, that the particles do their job, we must also somehow program them to find the diseased cells” explains Dr. Kristof Zarschler of the Helmholtz Virtual Institute NanoTracking at the HZDR.

Source: http://www.hzdr.de/

Cars: NanoMaterial Resists Under Extreme Conditions

Material researchers at the Leibniz Institute for New Materials (INM) – Germany – will be presenting a composite material which prevents metal corrosion in an environmentally friendly way, even under extreme conditions. It can be used wherever metals are exposed to severe weather conditions, aggressive gases, media containing salt, heavy wear or high pressures.
From 7 to 11 April 2014, the researchers of the INM will be presenting this and further results in Hall 2 at the stand C48 of the Hannover Messe in the context of the leading trade fair for R & D and Technology Transfer. This includes new developments of transparent and conducting coatings, CIGS solar cells, antimicrobial coatings as well as grease-free composites with corrosion-resistant properties and printed electronics.

This patented composite exhibits its action by spray application”, explains Carsten Becker-Willinger, Head of the Nanomers Program Division. “The key is the structuring of this layer – the protective particles arrange themselves like roof tiles. As in a wall, several layers of particles are placed on top of each other in an offset arrangement; the result is a self-organized, highly structured barrier”, says the chemical nanotechnology expert. The protective layer is just a few micrometers (1 thousandth of a millimeter) thick and prevents penetration by gases and electrolytes. It provides protection against corrosion caused by aggressive aqueous solutions, including for example salt solutions such as salt spray on roads and seawater, or aqueous acids such as acid rain. The protective layer is an effective barrier, even against corrosive gases or under pressure.

source: http://www.inm-gmbh.de/

Internet Computer Teaching Itself Everything

Computer scientists from the University of Washington (UW) and the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence in Seattle have created the first fully automated computer program that teaches everything there is to know about any visual concept. Called Learning Everything about Anything, or LEVAN, the program searches millions of books and images on the Web to learn all possible variations of a concept, then displays the results to users as a comprehensive, browsable list of images, helping them explore and understand topics quickly in great detail.

It is all about discovering associations between textual and visual data,” said Ali Farhadi, a UW assistant professor of computer science and engineering. “The program learns to tightly couple rich sets of phrases with pixels in images. This means that it can recognize instances of specific concepts when it sees them.”

The research team will present the project and a related paper this month at the Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition annual conference in Columbus, Ohio.
Source: http://www.washington.edu/

How To Target Pancreatic Cancer

Short, customized carbon nanotubes have the potential to deliver drugs to pancreatic cancer cells and destroy them from within, according to researchers, led by Andrew Barron, chemist at Rice University and the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. Pristine nanotubes produced through a new process developed at Rice can be modified to carry drugs to tumors through gaps in blood-vessel walls that larger particles cannot fit through. The nanotubes may then target and infiltrate the cancerous cells’ nuclei, where the drugs can be released through sonication – that is, by shaking them. The next step was to cut the nanotubes down to size. Very long nanotubes are floppy and hard to deal with, Barron said. Enrico Andreoli, a postdoctoral research associate in Barron’s group and lead author of the paper, used a thermal process to chop them to an average length of 50 nanometers. (A human hair is about 100,000 nanometers wide.)

Instead of ending up with a fluffy nanotube powder, we get something that looks like a hockey puck,” Barron said. “It’s not dense – it looks like a spongy puck – but you can cut it with a razor blade. You can weigh it and do accurate chemistry with it.”
Fleming, whose work focuses on improving drug delivery for pancreatic cancer, cautioned that more research is required. ”The next step will be to test this approach in mice that have allografts taken from human tumors,” he said. “The architecture of these tumors will more closely resemble that of human pancreatic cancer.”

The research was reported in the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Journal of Materials Chemistry B.
Source: http://news.rice.edu/

A Glass Of Milk So White…

The Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies (PEN) revealed a few weeks ago that there are over 1,600 nanotechnology-based products on the market today — and that the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) lacks the authority to regulate them.Some of these nanotechnological innovations — which refer to particles less than 100 nanometers wide, or approximately 1/800th the diameter of a strand of human hair — are likely harmless, such as embedded silver particles in athletic socks and underwear. According to SmartSilver Anti-Odor Nanotechnology Underwear, the microscopic silver particles are “strongly antibacterial to a wide range of pathogens, absorb sweat, and by killing bacteria help eliminate unpleasant foot odor.”

However, the PEN database also includes 96 nanotechnology-infused items currently stocked on grocery store shelves, and none of these items listed their nanotechnology among their ingredients. Included on the list are Dannon Greek Plain Yogurt, Hershey’s Bliss Dark Chocolate, Kraft’s American Cheese Singles, and Rice Dream Rice Drink, all of which contain nanoparticles of titanium dioxide.

Titanium dioxide — often referred to as “the perfect white” or “the whitest white” — is used as a pigment because its refractive index is extremely high. It has long been present in paints, plastics, paper, toothpaste, and pearlescent cosmetics, but researchers recently discovered the benefits of adding it to skim milk.

According to David Barbano, a professor at Cornell University’s Department of Food Science, “suspension of titanium dioxide in skim milk made the milk whiter, which resulted in improved sensory scores for appearance, creamy aroma, and texture… There is clearly a need to develop a whitener for fat-free milk other than titanium dioxide to provide processors with an ingredient option that would improve sensory properties and provide a nutritional benefit.”

Source: http://www.nanotechproject.org/