How To Capture Quickly Cancer Markers

A nanoscale product of human cells that was once considered junk is now known to play an important role in intercellular communication and in many disease processes, including cancer metastasis. Researchers at Penn State have developed nanoprobes to rapidly isolate these rare markers, called extracellular vesicles (EVs), for potential development of precision cancer diagnoses and personalized anticancer treatments.

Lipid nanoprobes

Most cells generate and secrete extracellular vesicles,” says Siyang Zheng, associate professor of biomedical engineering and electrical engineering. “But they are difficult for us to study. They are sub-micrometer particles, so we really need an electron microscope to see them. There are many technical challenges in the isolation of nanoscale EVs that we are trying to overcome for point-of-care cancer diagnostics.”

At one time, researchers believed that EVs were little more than garbage bags that were tossed out by cells. More recently, they have come to understand that these tiny fat-enclosed sacks — lipids — contain double-stranded DNA, RNA and proteins that are responsible for communicating between cells and can carry markers for their origin cells, including tumor cells. In the case of cancer, at least one function for EVs is to prepare distant tissue for metastasis.

The team’s initial challenge was to develop a method to isolate and purify EVs in blood samples that contain multiple other components. The use of liquid biopsy, or blood testing, for cancer diagnosis is a recent development that offers benefits over traditional biopsy, which requires removing a tumor or sticking a needle into a tumor to extract cancer cells. For lung cancer or brain cancers, such invasive techniques are difficult, expensive and can be painful.

Noninvasive techniques such as liquid biopsy are preferable for not only detection and discovery, but also for monitoring treatment,” explains Chandra Belani, professor of medicine and deputy director of the Cancer Institute,Penn State College of Medicine, and clinical collaborator on the study.

We invented a system of two micro/nano materials,” adds Zheng. “One is a labeling probe with two lipid tails that spontaneously insert into the lipid surface of the extracellular vesicle. At the other end of the probe we have a biotin molecule that will be recognized by an avidin molecule we have attached to a magnetic bead.”

Source: http://news.psu.edu/

Shape-shifting Molecular Robots

A research group at Tohoku University and Japan Advanced Institute of Science and Technology has developed a molecular robot consisting of biomolecules, such as DNA and protein. The molecular robot was developed by integrating molecular machines into an artificial cell membrane. It can start and stop its shape-changing function in response to a specific DNA signal.

This is the first time that a molecular robotic system has been able to recognize signals and control its shape-changing function. What this means is that molecular robots could, in the near future, function in a way similar to living organisms.

Using sophisticated biomolecules such as DNA and proteins, living organisms perform important functions. For example, white blood cells can chase bacteria by sensing chemical signals and migrating toward the target. In the field of chemistry and synthetic biology, elemental technologies for making various molecular machines, such as sensors, processors and actuators, are created using biomolecules. A molecular robot is an artificial molecular system that is built by integrating molecular machines. The researchers believe that realization of such a system could lead to a significant breakthrough – a bio-inspired robot designed on a molecular basis.

molecular robot

The molecular robot developed by the research group is extremely small – about one millionth of a meter – similar in size to human cells. It consists of a molecular actuator, composed of protein, and a molecular clutch, composed of DNA. The shape of the robot’s body (artificial cell membrane) can be changed by the actuator, while the transmission of the force generated by the actuator can be controlled by the molecular clutch. The research group demonstrated through experiments that the molecular robot could start and stop the shape-changing behavior in response to a specific DNA signal.

The findings were published in Science Robotics.

Source: http://www.tohoku.ac.jp/

Nanofiber For Bullet Proof Vests

Harvard researchers have developed a lightweight, portable nanofiber fabrication device that could one day be used to dress wounds on a battlefield or dress shoppers in customizable fabrics. There are many ways to make nanofibers. These versatile materials — whose target applications include everything from tissue engineering to bullet proof vests — have been made using centrifugal force, capillary force, electric field, stretching, blowing, melting, and evaporation.

Each of these fabrication methods has pros and cons. For example, Rotary Jet-Spinning (RJS) and Immersion Rotary Jet-Spinning (iRJS) are novel manufacturing techniques developed in the Disease Biophysics Group at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering. Both RJS and iRJS dissolve polymers and proteins in a liquid solution and use centrifugal force or precipitation to elongate and solidify polymer jets into nanoscale fibers. These methods are great for producing large amounts of a range of materials – including DNA, nylon, and even Kevlar – but until now they haven’t been particularly portable.

The Disease Biophysics Group recently announced the development of a hand-held device that can quickly produce nanofibers with precise control over fiber orientation. Regulating fiber alignment and deposition is crucial when building nanofiber scaffolds that mimic highly aligned tissue in the body or designing point-of-use garments that fit a specific shape.

nanofiber

Our main goal for this research was to make a portable machine that you could use to achieve controllable deposition of nanofibers,” said Nina Sinatra, a graduate student in the Disease Biophysics Group and co-first author of the paper. “In order to develop this kind of point-and-shoot device, we needed a technique that could produce highly aligned fibers with a reasonably high throughput.

The new fabrication method, called pull spinning, uses a high-speed rotating bristle that dips into a polymer or protein reservoir and pulls a droplet from solution into a jet. The fiber travels in a spiral trajectory and solidifies before detaching from the bristle and moving toward a collector. Unlike other processes, which involve multiple manufacturing variables, pull spinning requires only one processing parameter — solution viscosity — to regulate nanofiber diameter. Minimal process parameters translate to ease of use and flexibility at the bench and, one day, in the field.

The research was published recently in Macromolecular Materials and Engineering.

Source: https://www.seas.harvard.edu/

‘Protective’ DNA strands are shorter in adults who had more infections as infants

New research indicates that people who had more infections as babies harbor a key marker of cellular aging as young adults: the protective stretches of DNA which “cap” the ends of their chromosomes are shorter than in adults who were healthier as infants.

TELOMERESThe 46 chromosomes of the human genome, with telomeres highlighted in white

These are important and surprising findings because — generally speaking — shorter chromosome ‘caps’ are associated with a higher burden of disease later in life,” said lead author Dan Eisenberg, an assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Washington.

The ‘caps’ Eisenberg and his co-authors measured are called telomeres. These are long stretches of DNA at the ends of our chromosomes, which protect our genes from damage or improper regulation. One Nobel Prize-winning scientist who studies telomeres has compared them to aglets — the plastic or metal sheath covering ends of shoelaces. When aglets wear down, the shoelace is exposed to fraying and degradation from environmental forces.

Like aglets, telomeres don’t last forever. In most of our cells, telomeres get shorter each time that cell divides. And when they get too short, the cell either quits dividing or dies.

That makes telomere length particularly important for the cells of our immune system, especially the white blood cells circulating in our bloodstream. When activated against a pathogen, white blood cells undergo rapid rounds of cell division to raise a defensive force against the infectious invader. But if telomeres in white blood cells are already too short, the body may struggle to mount an effective immune response.

Many studies — in laboratory animals and humans — have associated shorter telomeres with poor health outcomes, especially in adults,” said Eisenberg. But few studies have addressed whether or not events early in a person’s life might affect telomere length. To get at this question, Eisenberg turned to the Cebu Longitudinal Health and Nutrition Survey, which has tracked the health of over 3,000 infants born in 1983-1984 in Cebu City in the Philippines. Researchers collected detailed data every two months from mothers on the health and feeding habits of their babies up through age two. Mothers reported how often their babies had diarrhea — a sign of infection — as well as how often they breastfed their babies. As these babies grew up, scientists collected additional health data during follow-up surveys over the next 20 years. In 2005, 1,776 of these offspring donated a blood sample. By then, they were 21- or 22-year-old young adults.

Eisenberg measured telomere length in cells from those blood samples. He then combined the data on adult telomere length with information about their health and feeding habits as babies. He found that babies with higher reported cases of diarrhea at 6 to 12 months also had the shortest telomeres as adults.

The findings have been published in the American Journal of Human Biology.

Source: http://www.washington.edu/

£25,000 To Fabricate A New Beer According To Your DNA

Can’t quite find the perfect pint? A London brewer claims to have the answer – a beer designed around your DNA profile. The Meantime Brewing Company in Greenwich says designing a product to suit a particular person’s palate is a world first.

meantime-beerCLICK ON THE IMAGE TO ENJOY THE VIDEO

What we looked at doing was trying to create a beer where we could produce a beer specifically to that person, so looking at their DNA to understand the taste profile of the individual to then say OK, you particularly identify bitter flavours, sweet flavours what have you and then produce a beer which has that characteristic so you would ultimately like that beer and it would be a great beer to taste and it would suit your taste buds perfectly.” explains Ciaran Giblin, Brewmaster at Meantime Brewing Company.

Launching in February, Meantime Bespoke customers will have their DNA analysed They’re looking for variations in the gene that allows us to taste bitter compounds like those found in cabbage, coffee and certain dark beers. Then it’s back to the brewery and tried and tested variations of barley, hops, yeast and water.

It’s about interpreting all these different facets to bring it together to produce one beer that someone is going to like. So it’s a complex process. It’s not a simple case of just putting it all in together and off it goes. There’s lots of elements that we’ve got to draw in together to focus on in order to deliver the beer that is perfect for someone to drink,” comments Ciaran Giblin.

Customers will pay 25,000 pounds for the privilege – and for a little extra can impact the whole process of creating a new beer .

You have influence on what the label looks like, on what the taste of the beer looks like. You can even get a glass perfectly formed to your hand so you can enjoy it in the perfect way. A glass can influence the flavour of the beer as well. So it really ticks off every box that you go through and then you get to share it with friends or if you’re a business or wherever you go,” says Richard Myers, Marketing Director of the company. Customers will get 12 hectolitres of their unique brew in bottles – more than 2,000 pints It can also be delivered in kegs to your favourite pub – where you’ll have even more friends than you realised.

Source: https://www.meantimebrewing.com/

Light-Controlled NanoRobot Attacks Tumors

A team of researchers led by Dr Jinyao Tang of the Department of Chemistry, the University of Hong Kong, has developed the world’s first light-seeking synthetic Nano robot. With size comparable to a blood cell, those tiny robots have the potential to be injected into patients’ bodies, helping surgeons to remove tumors and enabling more precise engineering of targeted medications.

It has been a dream in science fiction for decades that tiny robots can fundamentally change our daily life. The famous science fiction movie “Fantastic Voyage” is a very good example, with a group of scientists driving their miniaturized Nano-submarine inside human body to repair a damaged brain. In the film “Terminator 2”, billions of Nanorobots were assembled into the amazing shapeshifting body: the T-1000.

light-seeking-nanorobot

“Light is a more effective option to communicate between microscopic world and macroscopic world. We can conceive that more complicated instructions can be sent to Nanorobots which provide scientists with a new tool to further develop more functions into Nanorobot and get us one step closer to daily life applications”

The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2016 was awarded to three scientists for “the design and synthesis of molecular machines”. They developed a set of mechanical components at molecular scale which may be assembled into more complicated Nano machines to manipulate single molecule such as DNA or proteins in the future. The development of tiny nanoscale machines for biomedical applications has been a major trend of scientific research in recent years. Any breakthroughs will potentially open the door to new knowledge and treatments of diseases and development of new drugs.

One difficulty in Nanorobot design is to make these nanostructures sense and respond to the environment. Given each Nanorobot is only a few micrometer in size which is ~50 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair, it is very difficult to squeeze normal electronic sensors and circuits into Nanorobots with reasonable price. Currently, the only method to remotely control Nanorobots is to incorporate tiny magnetic inside the Nanorobot and guide the motion via external magnetic field.

The Nanorobot developed by Dr Tang’s team use light as the propelling force, and is the first research team globally to explore the light-guided Nanorobot and demonstrate its feasibility and effectiveness. In their paper published in Nature Nanotechnology, Dr Tang’s team demonstrated the unprecedented ability of these light-controlled Nanorobots as they are “dancing” or even spell a word under light control. With a novel Nanotree structure, the Nanorobots can respond to the light shining on it like moths being drawn to flames. Dr Tang described the motions as if “they can “see” the light and drive itself towards it”.

The findings have been published in the scientific journal Nature Nanotechnology.

Source: http://www.hku.hk/

How To Map RNA Molecules In The Brain

Cells contain thousands of messenger RNA molecules, which carry copies of DNA’s genetic instructions to the rest of the cell. MIT engineers have now developed a way to visualize these molecules in higher resolution than previously possible in intact tissues, allowing researchers to precisely map the location of RNA throughout cells. Key to the new technique is expanding the tissue before imaging it. By making the sample physically larger, it can be imaged with very high resolution using ordinary microscopes commonly found in research labs.

MIT RNA-Imaging

Now we can image RNA with great spatial precision, thanks to the expansion process, and we also can do it more easily in large intact tissues,” says Ed Boyden, an associate professor of biological engineering and brain and cognitive sciences at MIT, a member of MIT’s Media Lab and McGovern Institute for Brain Research, and the senior author of a paper describing the technique in the July 4 issue of Nature Methods.

Studying the distribution of RNA inside cells could help scientists learn more about how cells control their gene expression and could also allow them to investigate diseases thought to be caused by failure of RNA to move to the correct location.

Source: http://news.mit.edu/

Biosensor Chip Detects DNA Mutations

Bioengineers at the University of California, San Diego have developed an electrical graphene chip capable of detecting mutations in DNA. Researchers say the technology could one day be used in various medical applications such as blood-based tests for early cancer screening, monitoring disease biomarkers and real-time detection of viral and microbial sequences.

biosensor chip SNP detection

We are at the forefront of developing a fast and inexpensive digital method to detect gene mutations at high resolution—on the scale of a single nucleotide change in a nucleic acid sequence,” said Ratnesh Lal, professor of bioengineering, mechanical engineering and materials science in the Jacobs School of Engineering at UC San Diego.

The technology, which is at a proof-of-concept stage, is a first step toward a biosensor chip that can be implanted in the body to detect a specific DNA mutation—in real time—and transmit the information wirelessly to a mobile device such as a smartphone or laptop.

The advance was published June 13 in the online early edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Source: http://jacobsschool.ucsd.edu/

The Gene That Causes Grey Hair Is Now Identified

No matter who you are; for most of us grey hair is an inevitable part of getting older. But what if you could switch off the gene that causes it? For the first time, scientists have identified a gene called IRF4 as the culprit behind grey hair. DNA samples from over 6,000 volunteers were collected in Latin America; chosen for the diverse ancestry of its inhabitants. And it turns out if you have your roots in Europe, grey hair is much more likely.

Grey-HairCLICK ON THE IMAGE TO ENJOY THE VIDEO

This genetic variant of IRF4 has two forms; one form is present world-wide and the other form is present only in Europeans. And we saw that this particular European specific form gives you almost double the chance of hair greying,” says Dr Kaustubh Adhikari from University College London (UCL), department of cell and developmental biology.

The gene IRF4 helps regulate melanin in the body, which determines – among other things – hair colour. Age and environmental factors will, of course, influence how quickly IRF4 triggers hair greying. But the researchers say their discovery could lead to a treatment that could stop it in its tracks.

Switching off a gene is of course feasible, the issue is whether it will have the desired effect and whether it’s the right thing to do… But in terms of trying to develop a therapy to delay or prevent hair greying, that is something that is potentially feasible; yes“, comments Professor Andres Ruiz-Linares, UCL (department of BioSciences).

Scientists think that a simple cosmetic treatment for switching off the grey gene would take many more years of research. But for those keen to banish the grey forever, your prayers might one day be answered.

The study has been published in the journal  Nature Communications.

Source: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/

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/
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http://discov-her.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/

Nanotechnology Fights Skin Disease

Researchers at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem have developed a nanotechnology-based delivery system containing a protective cellular pathway inducer that activates the body’s natural defense against free radicals efficiently, a development that could control a variety of skin pathologies and disorders. The human skin is constantly exposed to various pollutants, UV rays, radiation and other stressors that exist in our day-to-day environment. When they filter into the body they can create Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) – oxygen molecules known as Free Radicals, which are able to damage and destroy cells, including lipids, proteins and DNA. In the skin – the largest organ of the body – an excess of ROS can lead to various skin conditions, including inflammatory diseases, pigmenting disorders, wrinkles and some types of skin cancer, and can also affect internal organs. This damage is known as Oxidative Stress. The body is naturally equipped with defense mechanisms to counter oxidative stress. It has anti-oxidants and, more importantly, anti-oxidant enzymes that attack the ROS before they cause damage.

In a review article published in the journal Cosmetics, a PhD student from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, working in collaboration with researchers at the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, suggested an innovative way to invigorate the body to produce antioxidant enzymes, while maintaining skin cell redox balance – a gentle equilibrium between Reactive Oxygen Species and their detoxification.

skin nano

The approach of using the body’s own defense system is very effective. We showed that activation of the body’s defense system with the aid of a unique delivery system is feasible, and may leverage dermal cure,” said Hebrew University researcher Maya Ben-Yehuda Greenwald.

She showed that applying nano-size droplets of microemulsion liquids containing a cellular protective pathway inducer into the skin activates the natural skin defense systems.

Currently, there are many scientific studies supporting the activation of the body’s defense mechanisms. However, none of these studies has demonstrated the use of a nanotechnology-based delivery system to do so,” adds Ben-Yehuda Greenwald.

Source: http://new.huji.ac.il/