Articles from March 2016



Nanoparticle-Based Cancer Therapies Shown to Work in Humans

A team of researchers led by Caltech scientists has shown that nanoparticles can function to target tumors while avoiding adjacent healthy tissue in human cancer patients.

nanoparticle against brain cancer

Our work shows that this specificity, as previously demonstrated in preclinical animal studies, can in fact occur in humans“, says study leader Mark E. Davis, the Warren and Katharine Schlinger Professor of Chemical Engineering at Caltech. “The ability to target tumors is one of the primary reasons for using nanoparticles as therapeutics to treat solid tumors.
The scientists demonstrate that nanoparticle-based therapies can act as a “precision medicine” for targeting tumors while leaving healthy tissue intact. In the study, Davis and his colleagues examined gastric tumors from nine human patients both before and after infusion with a drug—camptothecin—that was chemically bound to nanoparticles about 30 nanometers in size.

Our nanoparticles are so small that if one were to increase the size to that of a soccer ball, the increase in size would be on the same order as going from a soccer ball to the planet Earth,” says Davis, who is also a member of the City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center in Duarte, California, where the clinical trial was conducted.

The team found that 24 to 48 hours after the nanoparticles were administered, they had localized in the tumor tissues and released their drug cargo, and the drug had had the intended biological effects of inhibiting two proteins that are involved in the progression of the cancer. Equally important, both the nanoparticles and the drug were absent from healthy tissue adjacent to the tumors.

The findings, have been published online in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Source: https://www.caltech.edu/

Cost-effective Hydrogen Production From Water

Groundbreaking research at Griffith University (Australia) is leading the way in clean energy, with the use of carbon as a way to deliver energy using hydrogen. Professor Xiangdong Yao and his team from Griffith’s Queensland Micro- and Nanotechnology Centre have successfully managed to use the element to produce hydrogen from water as a replacement for the much more costly platinum.

Tucson fuel cellTucson fom Hyundai: A Hydrogen Fuel Cell Car

Hydrogen production through an electrochemical process is at the heart of key renewable energy technologies including water splitting and hydrogen fuel cells,” says Professor Yao. “Despite tremendous efforts, exploring cheap, efficient and durable electrocatalysts for hydrogen evolution still remains a great challenge. “Platinum is the most active and stable electrocatalyst for this purpose, however its low abundance and consequent high cost severely limits its large-scale commercial applications. “We have now developed this carbon-based catalyst, which only contains a very small amount of nickel and can completely replace the platinum for efficient and cost-effective hydrogen production from water.

In our research, we synthesize a nickel–carbon-based catalyst, from carbonization of metal-organic frameworks, to replace currently best-known platinum-based materials for electrocatalytic hydrogen evolution“, he adds. “This nickel-carbon-based catalyst can be activated to obtain isolated nickel atoms on the graphitic carbon support when applying electrochemical potential, exhibiting highly efficient hydrogen evolution performance and impressive durability.”

Proponents of a hydrogen economy advocate hydrogen as a potential fuel for motive power including cars and boats and on-board auxiliary power, stationary power generation (e.g., for the energy needs of buildings), and as an energy storage medium (e.g., for interconversion from excess electric power generated off-peak).

Source: https://app.secure.griffith.edu.au/

Sensor One Million Times More Sensitive Detects Cancer Far Earlier

Physicists and engineers at Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) have developed an optical sensor, based on nanostructured metamaterials, that’s 1 million times more sensitive than the current best available–one capable of identifying a single lightweight molecule in a highly dilute solution. Their goal: to provide oncologists a way to detect a single molecule of an enzyme produced by circulating cancer cells. Such detection could allow doctors to diagnose patients with certain cancers far earlier than possible today, monitor treatment and resistance and more.

cwru sensor

The prognosis of many cancers depends on the stage of the cancer at diagnosis” said Giuseppe “Pino” Strangi, professor of physics at Case Western Reserve and leader of the research.

Very early, most circulating tumor cells express proteins of a very low molecular weight, less than 500 Daltons,” Strangi explained. “These proteins are usually too small and in too low a concentration to detect with current test methods, yielding false negative results.

“With this platform, we’ve detected proteins of 244 Daltons, which should enable doctors to detect cancers earlier–we don’t know how much earlier yet,” he said. “This biosensing platform may help to unlock the next era of initial cancer detection.”

The researchers believe the sensing technology will also be useful in diagnosing and monitoring other diseases as well.

Their research is published online in the journal Nature Materials.

Source: http://www.eurekalert.org

Inhibited On/Off Switch Protein Could Prevent Prostate Cancer

Researchers at the University of Georgia (UGA) have created a new therapeutic for prostate cancer that has shown great efficacy in mouse models of the disease. The treatment is designed to inhibit the activity of a protein called PAK-1, which contributes to the development of highly invasive prostate cancer cells. Aside from non-melanoma skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is also one of the leading causes of cancer death among men of all races.

prostateCANCERcells

PAK-1 is kind of like an on/off switch,” said study co-author Somanath Shenoy, an associate professor in UGA‘s College of Pharmacy. “When it turns on, it makes cancerous cells turn into metastatic cells that spread throughout the body.

With the help of Brian Cummings, an associate professor in UGA‘s College of Pharmacy, the researchers developed a way to package and administer a small molecule called IPA-3, which limits the activity of PAK-1 proteins.

Researchers have published their findings recently in the journal Nanomedicine: Nanotechnology, Biology and Medicine.

Source: http://news.uga.edu/

The Genome Editor

French biochemist Emmanuelle Charpentier, from the Max Planck Institute in Berlin, was recently awarded the L’oreal-Unesco Prize For Women in Science. The scientist is listed as one of the 100 Most Influential People by Time Magazine. Her discovery, the CRISPR-Cas9, is a gene-editing technology that could revolutionize medical treatments in ways we can only begin to imagine. Marking an incredible leap forward in the long history of genome studies, Emmanuelle Charpentier and her lab partner, scientist Jennifer Doudna, jointly discovered CRISPR-Cas9 (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats). Behind this name, which sounds like something from a sci-fi novel, is a technology that works like a pair of molecular scissors, allowing to precisely snip the genetic code, letter by letter, along with the programmable enzyme Cas9 able to perform a cut on a double DNA strand. This is a never-before-reached level of precision in genome studies. And one Emmanuelle Charpentier claims could change everyone’s life :

emmanuelle charpentier2

I am excited about the potential of our findings to make a real difference in people’s lives. The discovery demonstrates the relevance of basic research and how it can transform application in bioengineering and biomedicine, said Emmanuelle Charpentier.

While the scientific community agrees that CRISPR-Cas9 is a revolution, the stakes are so high that the question of what’s next seems a difficult one to answer. The technology could be the key to eradicate certain viruses like HIV, haemophilia or Huntington, to screen for cancer genes or to undertake genome engineering. The latter obviously raises moral and ideological issues.

The recent scientific article « CRISPR/Cas9-mediated Gene Editing In Human Tripronuclear Zygotes » published by Protein Cell reports the first experiment on a foetus by a team of scientists in China, and illustrates the potential dangerous consequences (eugenics)  of CRISPR-Cas9 on future generations. Nature & Science refused to publish this experiment, mainly for ethical reasons. This question of ethics reminds us that science and society cannot be isolated from one another.

Source: https://www.mpg.de/
AND
http://discov-her.com/

Dye Solar Cells Make Your Mouse Battery Obsolete

These little glass squares could just be the answer to charging all your electronics. The glass-printed photovoltaic cells are a form of Dye Solar Cell technology created by Israeli company 3G Solar Photovoltaics. They’re so sensitive they can generate power from indirect, indoor lighting. Check it out. The company’s head of R&D Nir Stein is taking the batteries out of this mouse, which has the company’s dye solar cell module installed on top.


solar cells powered mouseCLICK ON THE IMAGE TO ENJOY THE VIDEO

What you see here is a computer mouse that has a bluetooth connectivity inside it and is powered by 3G solar photovoltaic cells. So when you have thousands of sensors, for instance in a building, which is going to happen in the next few years, you’ll never have to change a battery again,” says Nir Stein.
Dye-sensitized solar cells, or Graetzel cells, were discovered about 20 years ago. When they’re exposed to sunlight the dye becomes excited and creates an electronic charge without the need for pricey semiconductors. Kind of like the way plants use chlorophyll to turn sunlight into energy through photosynthesis. While the technology is the same, 3G Solar Voltaics‘ CEO Barry Breen says that being able to embed the cells on small surfaces has the potential to change the way we charge everyday devices. ) BARRY N. BREEN, CEO OF 3GSOLAR PHOTOVOLTAICS, SAYING: “What we offer in our cells, in our light power devices, is a solution that gives three times the power of anything else that exists, and we’re talking indoors, where most the electronics are used. So three times the power to run these new electronics, the new sensors, the smart watches and other wearables. So it’s a way to keep those powered that couldn’t be done before,” comments Barry Breen, CEO of 3G Solar Photovoltaics.

The small modules are durable and last for about 10 years. They can be colored and fitted to the shape of a device so they don’t stand out. Although still a prototype, the makers say the technology could make batteries a thing of the past.

Source: http://www.3gsolar.com/

 

Nano-enhanced Textiles Clean Themselves Of Stains

Researchers at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, have developed a cheap and efficient new way to grow special —which can degrade organic matter when exposed to lightdirectly onto . The work paves the way towards nano-enhanced textiles that can spontaneously clean themselves of stains and grime simply by being put under a light bulb or worn out in the sun. Dr Rajesh Ramanathan said the process developed  by the team had a variety of applications for catalysis-based industries such as agrochemicals, pharmaceuticals and natural products, and could be easily scaled up to industrial levels.

no more washing textileClose-up of the nanostructures grown on cotton textiles by RMIT University researchers. Image magnified 150,000 times

The advantage of textiles is they already have a 3D structure so they are great at absorbing light, which in turn speeds up the process of degrading organic matter,”said Dr Ramanathan. “There’s more work to do to before we can start throwing out our washing machines, but this advance lays a strong foundation for the future development of fully self-cleaning textile, he adds.”

The researchers from the Ian Potter NanoBioSensing Facility and NanoBiotechnology Research Lab at RMIT worked with copper and silver-based nanostructures, which are known for their ability to absorb visible light.

Source: http://phys.org/

Low Cost Solar Power Charger For Smartphones

Could this be the future for low-cost solar power? Unlike the silicon-based solar cells that currently make up most of the market, perovskites are flexible, easily made in the lab and form thin films. Various research centres are competing to make the technology stable enough for mass production. A Polish team has developed a working prototype of a cell phone charger using the material.

dual junctio solar cellCLICK ON THE IMAGE TO ENJOY THE VIDEO

“It’s very cost effective so producing films of this material is extremely cheap and it’s flexible so it can be used in portable electronics. This is an example of prototype device. It’s basically a battery and it can be used for charging our mobile phones, laptops or tablets“, says Konrad Wojtkowski, from the Polish company Saule Technologies .

The team plans further work on the prototype, to make it more durable and withstand everyday use. If they succeed, the potential uses could be expanded to a wide range of devices, including tablets and laptops. The next step in producing perovskite solar cells is expanding their surface to allow application on any large area — such as home windows and roofs. This would be possible thanks to the flexibility of perovskite layers. However it’s used, these researchers say it is the best hope for harnessing the sun’s power without costing the earth.

Source: http://sauletech.com

Nano Biosensor Detects Rapidly Flu Virus At Low Cost

The Department of Applied Physics (AP) and Interdisciplinary Division of Biomedical Engineering (BME) of The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) have jointly developed a novel nano biosensor for rapid detection of flu and other viruses. PolyU‘s new invention utilizes an optical method called upconversion luminescence resonance energy transfer (LRET) process for ultrasensitive virus detection. It involves simple operational procedures, significantly reducing its testing duration from around 1-3 days to 2-3 hours, making it more than 10 times quicker than traditional clinical methods. Its cost is around HK$20 per sample, which is 80% lower than traditional testing methods. The technology can be widely used for the detection of different types of viruses, shedding new light on the development of low-cost, rapid and ultrasensitive detection of different viruses.

flu virusTraditional biological methods for flu virus detection include genetic analysis — reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) used in immunology. However, RT-PCR is expensive and time-consuming while the sensitivity for ELISA is relatively low. Such limitations make them difficult for clinical use as a front-line and on-site diagnostic tool for virus detection, paving the way for PolyU‘s development of the new upconversion nanoparticle biosensor which utilizes luminescent technique in virus detection.

PolyU‘s researchers have developed a biosensor based on luminescent technique which operates like two matching pieces of magnet with attraction force. It involves the development of upconversion nanoparticles (UCNPs) conjugated with a probe oligo whose DNA base pairs are complementary with that of the gold nanoparticles (AuNPs) flu virus oligo.

The related results have been recently published in ACS Nano and Small, specialized journals in nano material research.

Source: http://www.polyu.edu.hk/

How To Kill Bacteria Using Gold Nanoparticles And Light

Researchers have developed a new technique for killing bacteria in seconds using highly porous gold nanodisks and light. The method could one day help hospitals treat some common infections without using antibiotics, which could help reduce the risk of spreading antibiotics resistance.

killing bacteriaWe showed that all of the bacteria were killed pretty quickly . . . within 5 to 25 seconds. That’s a very fast process,” said corresponding author Wei-Chuan Shih, a professor in the electrical and computer engineering department, University of Houston, Texas.

Scientists create gold nanoparticles in the lab by dissolving gold, reducing the metal into smaller and smaller disconnected pieces until the size must be measured in nanometers. One nanometer equals a billionth of a meter. A human hair is between 50,000 to 100,000 nanometers in diameter. Once miniaturized, the particles can be crafted into various shapes including rods, triangles or disks.

Previous research shows that gold nanoparticles absorb light strongly, converting the photons quickly into heat and reaching temperatures hot enough to destroy various types of nearby cells – including cancer and bacterial cells.

The research has been published in Optical Materials Express, a journal published by The Optical Society
Source: http://www.osa.org/

Biological NanoComputer Is Living

The substance that provides energy to all the cells in our bodies, Adenosine triphosphate (ATP), may also be able to power the next generation of supercomputers. That is what an international team of researchers led by Prof. Nicolau, the Chair of the Department of Bioengineering at McGill (Université McGill – Canada), believe. They’ve published an article on the subject earlier this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), in which they describe a model of a biological computer that they have created that is able to process information very quickly and accurately using parallel networks in the same way that massive electronic super computers do. Except that the model bio supercomputer they have created is a whole lot smaller than current supercomputers, uses much less energy, and uses proteins present in all living cells to function. 

biocomputer“We’ve managed to create a very complex network in a very small area,” says Dan Nicolau, Sr. with a laugh. He began working on the idea with his son, Dan Jr., more than a decade ago and was then joined by colleagues from Germany, Sweden and The Netherlands, some 7 years ago. “This started as a back of an envelope idea, after too much rum I think, with drawings of what looked like small worms exploring mazes.”

The model bio-supercomputer that the Nicolaus (father and son) and their colleagues have created came about thanks to a combination of geometrical modelling and engineering knowhow (on the nano scale). It is a first step, in showing that this kind of biological supercomputer can actually work.

Source: https://www.mcgill.ca/

6.3 nanometre lens to revolutionise cameras

Scientists have created the world’s thinnest lens, one two-thousandth the thickness of a human hair, opening the door to flexible computer displays and a revolution in miniature cameras. Lead researcher Dr Yuerui (Larry) Lu from ANU Research School of Engineering  (Australia) said the discovery hinged on the remarkable potential of the molybdenum disulphide crystal.

nanometre lens

This type of material is the perfect candidate for future flexible displays,” said Dr Lu, leader of Nano-Electro-Mechanical System (NEMS) Laboratory in the ANU Research School of Engineering. “We will also be able to use arrays of micro lenses to mimic the compound eyes of insects.”

The 6.3-nanometre lens outshines previous ultra-thin flat lenses, made from 50-nanometre thick gold nano-bar arrays, known as a metamaterial. “Molybdenum disulphide is an amazing crystal,” said Dr Lu. “It survives at high temperatures, is a lubricant, a good semiconductor and can emit photons too. “The capability of manipulating the flow of light in atomic scale opens an exciting avenue towards unprecedented miniaturisation of optical components and the integration of advanced optical functionalities.”

Molybdenum disulphide is in a class of materials known as chalcogenide glasses that have flexible electronic characteristics that have made them popular for high-technology components.

Source: https://cecs.anu.edu.au/