Friday, February 5, 2010

This week in nanotechnology - February 5, 2010

Lots of news in nanomedicine this week. Northwestern University researchers are the first to design a bioactive nanomaterial that promotes the growth of new cartilage in vivo and without the use of expensive growth factors. Minimally invasive, the therapy activates the bone marrow stem cells and produces natural cartilage. No conventional therapy can do this.

A new testing method is being developed to detect cancer soon after the tumor has formed. It will identify characteristic substances in the blood which accompany a certain type of tumor. The first steps in the development have already been completed. Biofunctionalized nanoparticles are the key element in the new sensor.

Another nanomedical approach to batling cancer was reported by scientists at the University of California, Berkeley. They have created smart nanoprobes that may one day be used in the battle against cancer to selectively seek out and destroy tumor cells, as well as report back on the mission's status.

smart nanoprobes to battle cancer

UC Berkeley scientists are designing smart nanoprobes, called nanocorals, to selectively attach to cancer cells, deliver therapeutic drugs and report on the local molecular environment. One side of the nanocorals is designed to selectively target the cell, while the other has a roughened surface to sense tell-tale chemical particles in the environment.

A 'smart' coating helps surgical implants bond more closely with bone and ward off infection. The coating creates a crystalline layer next to the implant, and a mostly amorphous outer layer that touches the surrounding bone. The amorphous layer dissolves over time, releasing calcium and phosphate, which encourages bone growth.

A team of University of Toronto chemists have made a major contribution to the emerging field of quantum biology, observing quantum mechanics at work in photosynthesis in marine algae. The experiments show that normally functioning biological systems have the capacity to use quantum mechanics in order to optimize a process as essential to their survival as photosynthesis.

Parts of a car’s bodywork could one day double up as its battery. Researchers from Imperial College London and their European partners, including Volvo Car Corporation, are developing a prototype material which can store and discharge electrical energy and which is also strong and lightweight enough to be used for car parts.

Another step to our bright energy future could come form electricity-generating silicone implants. Researchers have now demonstrated that high performance piezoelectric ceramics can be transferred in a scalable process onto rubber or plastic, rendering them flexible without any sacrifice in energy conversion efficiency.