Friday, July 24, 2009

Lots of nanomedicine news this week:

In future therapies, synthetic nanoparticles may well be able to ferry medicines and even genes to targets inside the body. These nanovehicles can now be directly tested and optimized using a highly sensitive microscopic method that can trace single particles all the way into a cell. In related news, physicists at New York University have developed a technique to record three-dimensional movies of microscopic systems, such as biological molecules, through holographic video. The work has potential to improve medical diagnostics and drug discovery.

Surgical removal of a tissue sample is now the standard for diagnosing cancer. Such procedures, known as biopsies, are accurate but offer only a snapshot of the tumor at a single moment in time. Monitoring a tumor for weeks or months after the biopsy and tracking its growth and how it responds to treatment would be much more valuable, says MIT professor Michael J. Cima, who has developed the first implantable cancer monitoring device that can do just that. One of the earliest events that changes a normal cell into a malignant one is known as deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) hypermethylation, a biochemical alteration that inactivates critical tumor-suppressor genes. Other progress in early identification of cancer cells was reported at Johns Hopkins University: A team there has developed a quantum dot-based method that can quantify DNA methylation in premalignant cells harvested from human patients.

Twinkle, twinkle, little star: A new approach to biomedical imaging with magnetically responsive gold nanostars has been reported by Purdue University researchers who have created magnetically responsive gold nanostars that may offer a new approach to biomedical imaging. The nanostars gyrate when exposed to a rotating magnetic field and can scatter light to produce a pulsating or "twinkling" effect. This twinkling allows them to stand out more clearly from noisy backgrounds like those found in biological tissue.

An interdisciplinary team of scientists led by Princeton engineers has been awarded a $3 million grant to study how fuel additives made of nanocatalysts can help supersonic jets fly faster and make diesel engines cleaner and more efficient.

Nanoscale mass spectrometer: using a carbon nanotube, Caltech researchers have developed a technique to determine the mass of a single molecule, in real time. In a not too different set-up, a Dutch team has succeeded in measuring the influence of a single electron on a vibrating carbon nanotube.

Staying with carbon nanotubes, the fundamental issue of large-scale carbon nanotube device fabrication remains the biggest challenge for effective commercialization of CNT-based nanoelectronic devices. A research team in Israel reports a new method to to achieve the integration of carbon nanotubes into micro-fabricated devices.

The first artificial graphene has been created at the NEST laboratory of the Italian Institute for the Physics of Matter (INFM-CNR) in Pisa. It is sculpted on the surface of a gallium-arsenide semiconductor, to which it grants the extraordinary properties of the original graphene.

And some nanoelectronics: A Rice University lab is manipulating molecules that might just be the ticket to extending Moore's Law, the theory that dictates the number of transistors that can be placed on an integrated circuit doubles about every two years.

international coalitions of NGOs, the European Environmental Bureau and the International POPs Elimination Network (IPEN) Nanotechnology Working Group, have challenged industry claims about the potential environmental benefits provided by nanotechnology products: Nanotechnologies are presented as providing unprecedented technological solutions to many environmental problems including climate change, pollution and clean drinking water. Proponents claim that it enables economic growth through better products and new markets while dramatically reducing our ecological footprint. However there is emerging evidence these claims do not provide the whole picture, with serious environmental risks and costs being trivialized or ignored.