Vaccination is one of the most effective ways to prevent microbial infection. Synthetic vaccines can combine a portion of a microbe, known as an 'antigen' together with an adjuvant that stimulates the immune system. Delivering both the adjuvant and antigen to the appropriate immune cells is challenging. DNA nanotechnology may provide a solution by acting as a scaffold to co-deliver both antigen and adjuvant. However, the potential of DNA nanostructure-based vaccines has only been demonstrated in vitro. Now, a team of researchers based out of Arizona State University demonstrated that DNA nanostructures with appended adjuvants could elicit antibody production against a model antigen in mice.
A major obstacle in today's chemical cancer therapies is to achieve specific drug accumulation at tumor sites and even tumor cells, because most chemotherapeutic agents are insoluble and instable, and can not differentiate between diseased and healthy cells. This often leads to severe adverse effects on healthy tissues and limits the maximum dose that can safely administered to patients. This issue becomes more serious in the case of some highly effective therapeutic agents, given that most potent anticancer drugs exhibit acute toxicity and narrow therapeutic window, and the clinical utility may not be possible without a powerful delivery systems equipped with smart properties that can allow them to precisely access the target tissues and cells. Targeted delivery approaches using nanomedicines will be able to provide solutions to these problems.
Carbon nanotubes, like the nervous cells of our brain, are excellent electrical signal conductors and can form intimate mechanical contacts with cellular membranes, thereby establishing a functional link to neuronal structures. There is a growing body of research on using nanomaterials in neural engineering. This emerging field of 'nanoneuroscience' explores and utilizes the potential of carbon nanotubes (CNTs) for fabricating durable, robust substrates, scaffolds and interfacing devices that change how researchers approach neuroscience. One area of neuron-CNT interaction that is now being probed is the effect of CNTs on neural stem cells. In new work by a team of scientists from Taiwan, it was found that electrical stimulation significantly promotes the early differentiation and maturation of neural stem cells.
Breath analysis of exhaled breath condensate has been increasingly recognized as a promising diagnostic method to link specific gaseous components in human breath to medical conditions and exposure to chemical compounds. Sampling breath is also much less invasive than testing blood, can be done very quickly, and creates as good as no biohazard waste. Studies have shown that exhaled breath from a flu patient contains influenza viruses but, although the use of silicon nanowire (SiNW) sensors for virus detection is not new, so far no studies have been conducted to apply silicon nanowire technology to the diagnosis of flu. Now, new research suggests that a SiNW sensor device, when calibrated by virus standards and exhaled breath condensate controls, can be reliably applied to the diagnosis of flu in a clinical setting with two orders of magnitude less time compared to the gold standard method RT-qPCR.
Many nanotechnology projects require some form of nanopatterning technique for fabricating the devices, structures and surfaces required in fields ranging from electronics to photonics, security, biotechnology and medicine. Although they may not be visible to the naked eye, the nanometer-sized trenches, ridges, curves and grooves of these patterns and surfaces have a very visible impact. Researchers have developed a wide range of nanopatterning techniques, from top-down methods such as nanoimprint, e-beam or UV lithography to bottom-up techniques such as transfer nanolithography or nanopositioning on DNA or protein scaffolds. A novel technique uses a biofunctionalization approach based on resist-less electron-beam-induced deposition of carbon-containing nanofeatures, that has been developed into a universal biofunctionalization platform. This unique ability can be exploited for biological experiments, where cells respond to the nanoscale density of activating molecules such as antibodies.
Researchers in Israel have found a unique way to affect cancer cells in a rather controllable manner. For example, they can kill these cells in various ways, or they can make them fuse together, as they like. They do so by using functionalized, 20 nm in diameter gold nanospheres and specific, intense laser pulses with a visible wavelength tuned to the plasmonic resonance of those particles. This technique may have an impact on various technologies which require sophisticated cell manipulation for therapeutic and drug development applications. What is unique about this technique is that it is highly controllable and repeatable. The structural stability of the nanospheres even after the strongest laser illumination allows them to deliver the effect over and over again, until the desired result is obtained.
Burn injuries are one of the major global health problems. Every year 195,000 people from all over the world die because of fire alone. A burn injury may damage some or all skin layers and is caused by a hot solid, a hot liquid, or a flame. However, injuries related to electricity, radioactivity, ultraviolet radiation, chemicals and respiratory damage due to smoking are also considered as burn injuries. Besides cleaning the wound and applying various topical anti-microbial agents, wound dressings could be an effective solution in preventing microbial infections for burn care. The suitability of a burn wound dressing depends on a burn type. Conventional dressings are not efficient enough to induce haemostasis, adherence and in holding a moist environment around wound. Due to the advances in the field of nanotechnology, it is now possible to design nanofiber-based wound dressings where an electrospun-nanofibrous layer is applied to a basic support fabric material.
One type of biomolecules, enzymes, regulate almost all chemical reactions involved in numerous biological processes in living organisms and are also widely used in research and industry. Regulation of enzyme activity and stability is very important and has always attracted great attention. Various enzyme regulators, ranging from proteins, peptides, and synthetic organic molecules, have been discovered. Recently, nanomaterials evolve as promising alternatives for enzyme modulation. Nanomaterials provide large surface areas for biomolecule adsorption and can be engineered to present multiple surface functional groups for interacting with biomolecules, such as enzymes and/or their substrates. In a recent study, scientists started to explore the interactions between functionalized graphene oxide and serine proteases, a large family of enzymes with important biomedical and industrial applications.