A number of neurodegenerative disorders, such as Parkinson's or Alzheimer Disease, may potentially be treated by gene therapy, i.e. the delivery of therapeutic genes to neurons. Currently, the most common carrier molecules to deliver the therapeutic gene to the patient's target cells are viruses that have been genetically altered to carry normal human DNA. Overall gene delivery efficiency is typically low for nonviral vectors. New research undertaken at The Johns Hopkins University offers a systematic approach to understanding the gene delivery process in neurons and explores the intracellular barriers to nonviral gene delivery and possible ways to improve their effectiveness.
A new study presents a viable strategy to stabilize enzymes under conditions found in real world biocatalytic applications. This stabilization of proteins through gold nanoparticles occurs through two mechanisms: 1) binding of the protein in its active structure stabilizes that structure; 2) the gold particles lower the interfacial energy between air and water, thus diminishing the driving force for denaturation. The result is a functional biocatalyst that can be readily applied to biotechnological applications.
Nanoribbons, which are attracting much attention due to their well-defined geometry and perfect crystallinity, require complex and expensive equipment to faricate. Researchers in China have succeeded in fabricating a single nanoribbon sensor and demonstrated its use as a potential in situ monitor to track blood glucose levels, suitable for potential use by diabetics.
Nanoscale sensors based on silicon nanowires and carbon nanotubes are capable of detecting molecules at ultra low concentrations. The potential applications include early detection of cancer and fast sequencing of genome. However, for these applications, the time taken by the sensor to reach stable response is crucial. This time is dictated by the diffusion of molecules (e.g. cancer markers) through the solution and their subsequent capture at the sensor surface. Researchers at Purdue University show that this response is governed by the geometry of diffusion of the system and that nanobiosensors are capable of detecting bio-molecules at much lower concentration than the classical planar sensors.
Multidrug resistance, the principal mechanism by which many cancers develop resistance to chemotherapy drugs, is a major factor in the failure of many forms of chemotherapy. New research by Chinese scientists suggests that nanoparticle surface chemistry and size as well as the unique properties of the magnetic nanoparticles themselves may contribute to a synergistic enhanced effect of drug uptake of targeted cancer cells. These findings could result in promising biomedical applications for cancer therapy.
The controlled release of biomolecules or nanoparticles is a problem of general interest for a wide range of applications. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore have demonstrated the programmed release, by applying a small voltage pulse, of biomolecules and nanoparticles chemically tethered to patterned electrode arrays.
Researchers in Belarus developed a new technology that significantly improves the safety of using laser nano-thermolysis to destroy cancerous cells. The method, dubbed LANTCET (laser activated nano thermolysis as cell elimination technology), uses clusters of gold nanoparticles to create vapor microbubbles that can kill targeted cells.
Scientists at the University of Washington are developing natural polymer based nanofibers using electrospinning to mimic the native extracellular matrix of cartilage in terms of microstructure, mechanical properties, and chemical composition. This reesearch holds great implication for the generation of functional cartilage tissues to help the millions of people who suffer from degeneration of articular cartilage due to primary osteoarthritis or trauma.