August 18, 2014
Harvard University scientist Michael Rubenstein and his team have developed a swarm of 1,024 robots, deemed kilobots, able to organize and communicate like none seen before. The software that dictates where each individual kilobot goes was inspired by the dozens of examples of self-assembly in nature. From schools of fish to the cells that organize and reorganize in our bodies, each member has the ability to communicate in an instant its location and velocity to every other member of the swarm, and by comparing this data to a shared coordinate system can assemble into virtually any shape. Right now application is limited: each robot consists of about $15 worth of material and measures 33 millimeters.
August 27, 2014
New work from UC Davis researchers, appearing in the journal Nature Communications, discusses the growing field of using nanotechnology to not only locate but also treat a variety of cancers. In the near future, the research suggests, specifically designed cancer-fighting nanotech particles will be able to travel through a patient’s body harmlessly, hone in on cancer cells, and then release anti-cancer payloads that eliminate developing tumors. The attached article serves as a good primer on nanotechnology breakthroughs and their potential usefulness in treating cancer, which has recently displaced heart disease as the number one killer in several countries.
September 2, 2014
Oregon State University scientists announce the creation of a new nanotechnology-driven biosensor material using diatoms rather than the more expensive and complex photonic crystals. Biosensors are useful and important for locating antibodies and monitoring blood glucose levels, among other things. This discovery of a way to use inexpensive, widely available diatoms to create efficient biosensor materials could lead to further expansion of algae science in medical research.
September 18, 2014
Murdoch University scientists reported in the Nature journal Scientific Reports that they’ve successfully used a nanotech synthetic material to cause bone formation in sheep tests. Using powdered bioceramic hydroxyapatite, the researchers made small pellets with a sponge-like structure which were then implanted into sheep. The basis of this technology has been used in reconstructive dentistry for some time, but this test is a breakthrough for using bioceramics to encourage bone growth. With further refinement, this technique could impact fracture repair and the treatment of bone density ailments.
September 23, 2014
Purdue University researchers, writing in the Journal of Controlled Release, discuss the creation of a nanotech device capable of simulating a cancer tumor’s “microenvironment.” Using this new device, the team will be able to better study the cellular barriers to some cancer treatments and devise new ways to attack cancer cells that work around these barriers. One avenue of research will be to study misshapen and irregular blood vessels surrounding tumors, which could have pores large enough to allow targeted cancer drugs to pass through.
October 1, 2014
University of Alabama scientists, writing in the journal Biosensors and Bioelectronics, discuss the creation of a new ultra-sensitive nanotechnology device, which could detect cancers at their earliest stages. The tiny, painless probe can be used to detect the presence of interleukin-6, which is secreted by T cells to stimulate immune response. Many cancers have connections to interleukin-6 and diagnosing its presence quickly could lead to faster and more effective treatment of tumors. The device can also be set to screen for other biomarkers, which could give it usefulness in diagnosing, for example, viruses present in the body.
October 16, 2014
New research appearing in ACS Nano from University of Massachusetts Medical School scientists reveals a unique nanoparticle that could greatly improve the usefulness of photodynamic therapy (PTD) in cancer treatment. Typically, a harmless but light-sensitive drug is given, and the PTD laser-light therapy produces singlet oxygen in cells, which destroys cancer cells while leaving most other cells unharmed. This new nanoparticle “relay,” however, shows promise to allow the PTD therapy to reach deeper into the body and attack tumors conventional PTD therapy cannot treat.
November 11, 2014
North Carolina State University scientists have developed a nanoscale drug-delivery mechanism using polyethylene glycol, which can carry multiple cancer drugs at the same time and potentially deliver them directly to cancer cells. The polymer structure enclosing the drugs acts as a kind of shell, and can be injected into the bloodstream where it then travels to porous cancer cells. With further development, this technology could, in time, lead to more precise cancer drug dosing and reduce the side effects of conventional cancer treatment.
November 14, 2014
Georgia Institute of Technology scientists, releasing data in Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science, report that a new nanotechnology-driven technique could lead to greater success treating those suffering from glaucoma and corneal neovascularization. Using nanoscale “micro needles” 700 microns in size or smaller, drugs can be delivered to specific regions of the eye rather than flooded into the entire eye. This new technique could lead to more precise drug targeting and increase the effectiveness of available treatments.
November 17, 2014
UC Santa Barbara scientists, writing in the journal ACS Nano, reveal the creation of synthetic nanotechnology particles, which mirror the shape and function of blood-clotting platelets. In cases of major surgery or severe injury, the hope is that these synthetic platelets can assist the natural body processes, which initially “plug” a wound and begin the healing process. Use of these synthetic platelets, which can be added to normal blood, could give surgeons needed extra time in emergency situations to address the cause of a variety of medical emergencies.
December 26, 2014
Lulea University of Technology scientists in Sweden have developed a prototype high-capacity filter that uses nanotech-inspired cellulose material to quickly separate industrial agents like heavy metal particles from water. The small, easy-to-use device will soon be tested at a wastewater treatment plant in Spain, and the developers have also received inquiries from mining companies about testing this prototype device. This new filtration device shows promise to help purify water of metals and dyes, as well as nitrates.
January 2, 2015
Northwestern University researchers, writing in the Journal of Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine, discuss the creation of a new nanotechnology-inspired procedure, which could assist in anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) replacement and repair. Currently, over a quarter million ACL procedures take place in the US each year. This new procedure uses polyester fibers, a new porous biomaterial, and calcium nanocrystals similar to the components of teeth and bone to help repair the ligament connection between the femur and the tibia.
January 12, 2015
Cornell University and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute scientists have developed a new nanotechnology-derived way to prevent bacteria from adhering to metal surfaces. This breakthrough could reduce bacterial infection and assist in quality and safety assurance for the food packaging and processing industries, as well as in medical applications. By using the process of anodization, the researchers were able to charge a metal surface with 15-nanometer-thick pores, which repulsed bacteria buildup. This exciting new work could provide a low-cost, effective alternative to today’s widely used chemical cleansers and disinfectants.
January 20, 2015
University of Warwick scientists discuss in a Nature Communications paper the development of two separate nanoparticles which when combined could release drugs exactly where needed. Alone, neither particle has the ability to deliver a drug, but when in contact with its complementary particle, the resulting reaction could allow for a precisely targeted drug which does not travel the entire bloodstream. This drug-delivery method also potentially reduces side effects. The earliest stages of this research seek to test the multiple-particle platform in cancer drug delivery.
October 31, 2016
About a billion people lack the water needed to meet basic health and agricultural needs. Water-borne diseases cause nearly half of hospitalizations globally and kill millions each year. And aquifers around the world are being depleted. The lack of clean water fuels regional conflicts and threatens economic growth from California to the Middle East.