Tech Trends: Nanotechnology

Nanotechnology is the manipulation of matter on an atomic and molecular scale. Nanotechnology as defined by size is naturally very broad, including fields of science as diverse as surface science, organic chemistry, molecular biology, semiconductor physics, micro fabrication, etc. The associated research and applications are equally diverse, ranging from extensions of conventional device physics to completely new approaches based upon molecular self-assembly, from developing new materials with dimensions on the nano-scale to direct control of matter on the atomic scale.

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Nano Spermbots Offer Inexpensive Solution for Infertility

One of the leading causes of infertility in males is low sperm motility, or the inability of the sperm to reach the eggs. A team of German researchers has developed what they have dubbed a “spermbot” which can help sperm cells reach the egg. The spermbot is a metal spiral developed on the nanoscale, just large enough to fit over the sperm’s tail and take hold beneath the head. The researchers use a rotating magnetic field to direct the spermbot to an individual sperm cell, and then use it as a motor to drive the sperm to the egg. Once there, the sperm can fertilize the egg and the spermbot’s spiral motor can simply slip off.

Tests have only been done in a petri dish setting and the technology is not yet ready for use on humans. However, once available, this technology could be far less expensive than most other infertility treatments. To learn more, please watch the video above.

(Source: Popular Science)

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Bioabsorbable Neuronal Implants

brain-sensorFollowing brain surgery, doctors have to closely monitor patients for any signs of intercranial pressure (ICP) or brain swelling during recovery. Conventional means of monitoring ICP or brain swelling involve a traditional implant. However, this comes with its own risks as permanent neural sensors increase the chances of infection and can worsen existing swelling.

Researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have developed a new class of bioabsorbable neural implants that can measure both temperature and pressure within the brain. The microimplants use a biodegradable polymer, polylactic-co-glycolic acid, as the base for the device. This membrane is then bonded to an etched nanoporous foil that responds to pressure changes in the brain.  The structure maintains functioning for several weeks while the patient’s progress is monitored. After the first few weeks are over, the implant harmlessly dissolves and is completely excreted by the body.

In a study published by the research time in Nature, two different versions of the implant were used– one which used soluble wires to transmit the data, and the second used a wireless transmitter the size of a postage stamp that was implanted under the skin. Both were able to effectively measure ICP. The team hopes that in the future the technology can be translated for uses such as: monitoring vitals, pH levels, motion, and more.

(Source: medGadget)

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Oregon State University Develops Single Agent Phototherapy for Tumor Detection and Destruction

single-agent-phototherapyScientists from Oregon State University are experimenting with using silicon naphthalocyanine as a single compound that can both detect and combat tumorous cells. The silicon naphthalocyanine glows when illuminated with near infrared light, all the while heating up to create reactive oxygen species.

In pre-clinical trials that tested the effects of silicon naphthalocyanine on ovarian tumors, researchers delivered the compound inside of the copolymer PEG-PCL which gathers around cancer cells, pointing to the tumor. Once the polymer and compound were in place, the near infrared light was administered to the area and the therapy began. The therapy allowed for the tumors to be broken down then excreted by the body without any side effects or without the tumor returning.

(Source: medGadget)

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Stanford University Successfully Engineers Virus-Like Particles for Targeted Drug Delivery

virus-like-particlesIn the past, many researchers have tried to engineer virus-like particles (VLP) for use in nano-particle drug research. VLP’s (reprogrammed Hepatitis B viruses in particular) could potentially be used for targeted drug delivery. However, doing so successfully has been a notoriously difficult task for researchers. Now, after four years, a team from Stanford University has been able to successfully reprogram the Hepatitis B virus so that it can now be used as a successful VLP for various applications.

The team altered the genetic code of the virus so the capsid would be able to hide itself within the body’s immune system. The changed capsid also improved nanoparticle stability, removed the surface charge of the protein, and added a rare spike region to the shell structure without disrupting the the internal proteins of the virus. With these developments, other groups will be able to utilize stabilized VLP’s for targeted drug delivery, vaccines, imaging, and potentially, targeted tumor treatments.

(Source: medGadget)

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Duke University Experiments with Smart Chemo Coating for Nanoparticles

chemo-coatingScientists have been experimenting with nanoparticles that can be heated to destroy tumor cells for quite some time. However, researchers at Duke University are developing smart nano-shells which not only heat up to destroy cancerous cells, they are also coated with a hydrogel containing a chemo compound known as doxorubicin. The hydrogel is swollen and mixed with water at body temperature, but once the nano-shell is heated, the water and drug are released into target cells. The goal of this new development is for as many tumor cells as possible to be destroyed using heat, and for those that cannot be destroyed with heat will open their membranes due to the heat and allow the medicine to pass through.

(Source: medGadget)

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Nanoparticles Help to Stop Internal Bleeding During Blast Injuries

steroid-loaded-nanoparticlesExplosions and blasts are the primary source of injury commonly faced by American soldiers on the battlefield today. Specifically, internal bleeding in the lungs can lead to irreversible damage and death if not treated immediately, which is often the case for many soldiers. Military hospitals are often miles away blast sites, preventing soldiers from being transported in time to stop and treat internal bleeding.

Researchers from Case Western University and Virginia Tech have developed hemostatic dexamethasone nanoparticles   (DNP) that were loaded with corticosteroids and injected to help stop internal clot formation and reduce inflammation in the lungs. In a trial using lab rats, rats who were given the nanoparticles had higher blood oxygen levels, less internal bleeding, and less cell tissue damage than those in the control group.

(Source: medGadget)

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Novel Acne Treatment Involves Ultrasound and Gold Nanoparticles

nanoparticle-acne-treatmentOver 40 million people in the United States suffer from acne. While generally not painful, acne can lead to social anxiety and decreased confidence in those who have the condition. While the acne-care industry is worth well over $2 billion in the United States, few products provide long-lasting solutions. Now, researchers from the University of California Santa Barbara and medical device company, Sebacia, have developed an approach to treating acne using a combination of ultrasound, gold coated particles, and lasers.

The leading cause of acne is the build-up of oily sebum in pores, along with hair, dirt, and other materials. The blocked pores lead to inflammation and infection of the skin which shows up as pimples and lesions in the skin. The new treatment being developed by UC Santa Barbara and Sebacia utilizes the injection of gold-coated silica nanoparticles into the sebaceous glands and heating them up to prevent the build up of sebum in pores. An ultrasound transducer moves the nanoparticles into the sebaceous glands and a near-infrared light is used over the injection site to heat up the nanoparticles. The heated nanoparticles prevent blockage of the glands and build-up of sebum, stopping acne at the source.

In two European clinical trials, the treatment saw a 60% improvement in the acne of participants. These results show promise for future acne treatments.

(Source: medGadget)

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Spanish University Develops Optical Nanosensor Capable of Sticking to Uneven and Biological Surfaces

optical nanosensorA team of researchers from the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (UPM) in Spain have developed a new optical nanosensor capable of sticking to uneven and biological surfaces, such as skin. The nanosensor, made using only CD’s, aluminum film, and adhesive tape, detects the presence of various chemicals and changes in position. Developers believe that the nature of the nanosensors will allow it to easily measure changes in body temperature, respiration, and blood pressure, as well as other vital signs. This capacity makes the optical nanosensor an ideal material to potentially include in wearable devices such as fitness trackers.

(Source: ieeeSpectrum)

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UC San Diego Nanoengineers Develop Temporary Tattoo Capable of Measuring Glucose Levels in the Blood

temporary-tattoo-sensorA team from University of California at San Diego has developed a temporary tattoo which could ultimately replace the use of traditional blood glucose monitors. With traditional monitors, diabetics may find themselves pricking their fingers up to eight times a day in order to get consistent measurements of blood glucose levels; a task many patients find uncomfortable or painful. However, with the new monitor developed by the UCSD team, diabetics may now be able to obtain their blood glucose reading without needles.

The new monitor uses temporary tattoo paper that has been fitted with electronic sensors. After each meal, the sensors send an electrical current through the skin for about ten minutes. During this time, the glucose in the blood–carried by sodium ions–is brought up to the skin’s surface where the device can measure the amount of glucose in the blood. In a study involving seven non-diabetic subjects, the new monitor offered results consistent with traditional blood glucose monitors.

The UCSD-designed glucose monitor can provide constant monitoring for up to 24 hours and would cost patients only a few cents per day. Moving forward, the research team is hoping to make a device which can be worn for longer periods of time and will display the blood glucose reading directly on the tattoo.

(Source: Popular Science)

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Nanoribbon-Embedded Artificial Skin Stretches and Senses Like Human Skin

handskinResearchers from South Korea are working to develop an artificial skin that can fit over a prosthetic, and will stretch and receive sensory feedback in a way that mimics human tissue. The artificial skin, made of a flexible, transparent, silicone material called polydimethylsiloxane, is embedded with silicon nanoribbons that generate electricity when they’re squished or stretched, providing a source of tactile feedback, as well as being able to sense when an object is hot or cold.

Researchers tested the effectiveness of the artificial skin by having a prosthetic hand fitted with the skin touch both wet and dry diapers. The skin was not only able to determine which diapers were wet and which were dry, but it was also able to maintain a steady temperature compatible with the temperature of human skin. Additionally, the use of nanotechnology allowed researchers to adjust the elasticity of the artificial skin by changing the shape of the nanoribbons.  In regions such as the fingertips where skin rarely stretches, the nanoribbons were packed in a tight linear pattern to maximize sensitivity. For areas like the wrist, which need more flexibility, the nanoribbons formed a looped pattern, allowing for up to 16% expansion.

The developers of this artificial skin hope that one day this technology will be paired with thought-controlled prosthetics to deliver sensory information about heat, cold, humidity, and texture directly to the brain of an amputee.

(Source: Popular Science)

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A New Theranostic Nanoparticle Could Potentially Diagnose and Treat Cancer

theranosticnanoResearchers at A*Star Research Institute of Materials Research and Engineering in Singapore have developed a new nanoparticle that could potentially diagnose and destroy cancerous cells.The new nanoparticle is made from a polyethylene-glycol-based polymer that carries a small peptide component, allowing it to bind to specific cell types. In addition, the polymer-based nanoparticle also carries the chemotherapy drug doxorubicin. The polymer also can be stimulated by light to release reactive oxygen species (ROS), which are chemically reactive molecules containing oxygen. The ROS, when triggered by light, can have a thermodynamic therapeutic activity which can destroy targeted cells. In addition, the polymer’s natural fluorescence allows it to find where other cancerous cells have accumulated.

At press time, tests had only been conducted on in vitro cells, and researchers acknowledge that performing the same tests on in vivo cancer cells may be more complex. However, they are optimistic for this potentially revolutionary therapy.

(Source: ieeeSpectrum)

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Researchers at the University of Georgia Improve Stroke Treatment with Nanomotors

tpaThere is only one treatment which is currently approved for the treatment of acute stroke, t-PA, or recombinant tissue plasminogen activator. However, researchers at the University of Georgia have recently reported that the use of t-PA, combined with a newly-developed magnetic nanoparticle can improve the efficacy of this stroke treatment. Patients receiving the treatment would receive a combined injection of the nanomotors along with the t-PA dose. A magnet would stimulate the nanomotors, causing them to spin and thus, further breaking down blood clots which have already been thinned by the t-PA.

Though the technique has only been tested in mice, researchers found that this method was twice as effective as the use of t-PA alone. Ultimately, the research team from the University of Georgia believes that this technique will allow doctors to use less medication for an equally effective treatment.

(Source: ieeeSpectrum)

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Specially Designed “Nanonaps” Provide Better Gastrointestinal Imaging

photoacoustic nanojuiceExamining the gastrointestinal tract can help to find the cause of many health conditions, including those where patients have difficulty swallowing. However, techniques for gastrointestinal imaging are fairly rudimentary. Because of the contoured shape of the GI tract and its large size, it can be difficult to get a complete, clear image. However, scientists at the University of Buffalo have developed a new technique which uses encapsulated dyes and provides an image with better resolution.

The technique uses naphthalocyanine dyes encapsulated in nanoparticles (known as nanonaps) as a contrast for photoacoustic imaging. The nanoparticle capsules help to keep the dyes from being absorbed by the body, but maintained the photoacoustic properties and moved easily through the GI tract. The technique has only been tried in laboratory mice so far, but the resulting images have been shown to be more clear than any current techniques used.

(Source: medGadget)

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University of Miami Develops Self-Assembling Nanoparticles

cell-delivery-submarinesThe University of Miami has developed self-assembling nanoparticles that can carry and deposit complementary molecules to the inside of cells. These new nanoparticles are only 15 nanometers wide and can pass easily through the membranes of cells, and the complementary molecules help to snap together other molecules in cells, delivering bursts of energy. The nanoparticles are hydrophobic on the inside and made of amphiphilic polymer on the outside making them safe to travel within the body. The research team from the University of Miami sees many benefits in the medical field for these nanoparticles, including targeted delivery and activation of medicine within cells.

(Source: medGadget)

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Injectable Nanoparticles Will Use MRI to Kill Tumors

MRI-particles-for-tumor-detectionA research team from Rice University and The Methodist Hospital Research Institute are working to turn two of the most promising technologies in cancer detection and treatment into a composite, targeted treatment regiment. The team makes use of Magnetic Resonance Imagery (MRI), which has been instrumental in helping doctors triangulate the exact position of tumors in the body, as well as nanotechnology which has shown promise for potentially delivering cancer medication directly to the tumor cells.

The Rice University and Methodist Hospital Research Institute have developed silicon mesoporous particles (SiMPS) embedded with iron oxide nanoparticles. The technology would work by using the magnetic waves from the MRI machine to guide iron-laden particles to the tumor. There, the magnetic energy would be used once again to heat up the particles and destroy the tumor cells. The treatment is still in the pre-clinical phase and not yet ready for human trials, but the development is already being praised for its elegance and the potential it shows.

(Source: medGadget)

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Engineers at the University of Texas Make the Smallest, Fastest and Longest-Lasting Nanomotor

Nanotechnology has shown the greatest promise for alternative cancer treatments that has been seen in years. The possibility of small robots or devices carrying cancer-destroying medicine straight to malignant cells, while leaving healthy cells alone gets closer to reality every day. Now, engineers at the University of Texas are working to bring this technology closer to reality by creating the smallest, fastest and longest-lasting nanomotor to date.

This new nanomotor is smaller than one square micrometer, but can move at 18,000 rpm for up to 15 hours– a step up from current nanomotors that can move from anywhere  between 14rpm to 500 rpm. The small size makes it possible for this nanomotor to enter some living human cells, and the speed will allow it to mix and pump biochemicals as well as move through liquids. For more information on this development, click to watch the video above.

(Source: ieeeSpectrum)

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UC San Diego Develops 3D Printable Liver-Like Device

3d-kidneyScientists have been able to use engineered nanoparticles to grab onto toxins within the body for some time. However, until recently, safely removing the toxin-laden nanoparticles from the body has been a challenge as they can often get trapped in the liver, causing hepatitis. Now, researchers at the University of California San Diego have developed a 3D Printable hydragel that works with engineered nanoparticles to remove toxins safely. The engineered nanoparticles are embedded in the hydragel, making certain that the toxins stay inside the device until it is removed, prohibiting the toxins from slipping back into the blood stream. The system, works much like dialysis, but promises to be more efficient as it allows for user-specific, on-site devices to be printed for each patient.

(Source: medGadget)

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Smart Nanoparticles Can Deliver Targeted Medicine at Specific Times

nanoparticle one two punchThe use of nanoparticles for targeted cancer treatment has greatly increased in the past couple of years, with the technology continually improving. While nanoparticles were designed to simply deliver medicine directly to the tumor cells, the nanoparticles are now capable of carrying multiple medications at once and a team of researchers from MIT have taken the treatment a step further by designing time release nanoparticles. In a very recent study, the team from MIT noticed that while dosing cancer patients with multiple medications improved the efficacy of drugs, the treatment was optimal when the patients received the different medications at distinct times. For instance, a cancer patient might receive a nanoparticle carrying erlotinib and doxorubicin. The erlotinib will be released into the tumor cells first, prohibiting the growth and replication of the cell. Next, the patient will receive a dose of doxorubicin anywhere between four and 24 hours later which will attack the DNA of the cancer cells, prohibiting protein synthesis.

In initial tests, mice who had transplanted tumors of human breast and lung cancer and received the timed nanoparticle treatment saw a significant decrease in the tumor size, even compared to mice who received the two medicines together. Before human trials can begin, the researchers from MIT plan to test the treatment on mice whose cancer develops naturally.

(Source: IFLScience)

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Nanoparticles and Magnets Used for Targeted Anesthesia Delivery

nanoparticleFor several years, doctors and researchers have been using nanoparticles for the targeted treatment of cancerous tumors. Now researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine are looking to expand the uses of nanoparticles in medicine with an experiment that paired nanoparticles with magnets. Researchers wanted to test if nanoparticles could be used to deliver targeted anesthesia in the same way that nanoparticles have been used to deliver targeted cancer therapy.

During the experiment, mice were injected with nanoparticles which contained a combination of magnetite (a mineral) and ropivacaine (a common local anesthetic). After the nanoparticles were injected, researchers used magnets to guide the particles to specific regions. Though the mice who received the nanoparticles received 14 times the usual dosage, the treatment was just as efficient as traditional local anesthetics, without the usual side effects. The researchers from the team are hopeful for what this might mean for the future of anesthesia delivery in humans.

(Source: medGadget)

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