Friday, January 22, 2010

This week in nanotechnology - January 22, 2010

Quite a few developments in nanomedicne this week. Nanoparticle-studded contact lenses may change the way diabetics monitor their glucose levels. These engineered nanoparticles react with glucose molecules found in tears – similar to those found in blood – causing a chemical reaction. When there is a variation in a person’s sugar level, the contact lenses respond by changing their color.

Another medical nanoparticle application has been reported by researchers at MIT and Harvard Medical School, who have built targeted nanoparticles that can cling to artery walls and slowly release medicine, an advance that potentially provides an alternative to drug-releasing stents in some patients with cardiovascular disease.

Scientists have demonstrated that a quantum dot based siRNA (small interfering RNA) approach selectively inhibits brain cancer cells. They showed that small double-stranded RNA molecules can sequence-specifically inhibit the expression of targeted genes that are associated with the development of cancer.

View into a vacuum chamber where attosecond light pulses are generated.

Targeted delivery of multifunctional siRNA-quantum dots (red) incubated in a co-culture of malignant tumor cells. (Scale bar = 50 µm)

Biophysicists have published the results of single-molecule experiments that bring a higher-resolution tool to the study of protein folding. How proteins arrive at the three-dimensional shapes that determine their essential functions – or cause grave diseases when folding goes wrong – is considered one of the most important and least understood questions in the biological and medical sciences

Big-name retailers like Tesco and Carrefour should help prepare consumers for innovations in the food sector, according to the top civil servant in the EU executive's directorate for health and consumer protection. Robert Madelin, director-general of the European Commission's DG Sanco, told a meeting of retailers that supermarkets needed to be upfront in explaining the risks and benefits of advances such as nanotechnology.

New research sheds light on how atoms arrange themselves into thin films. To make thin films for semiconductors in electronic devices, layers of atoms must be grown in neat, crystalline sheets. But while some materials grow smooth crystals, others tend to develop bumps and defects – a serious problem for thin-film manufacturing.