Advances in materials, fabrication strategies and device designs for flexible and stretchable electronics and sensors make it possible to envision a not-too-distant future where ultra-thin, flexible circuits based on inorganic semiconductors can be wrapped and attached to any imaginable surface, including body parts and even internal organs. Robotic technologies will also benefit as it becomes possible to fabricate electronic skin ('e-skin') that, for instance, could allow surgical robots to interact, in a soft contacting mode, with their surroundings through touch.
Advances in micro- and nanoscale engineering in the medical field have led to the development of various robotic designs that one day will allow a new level of minimally invasive medicine. These micro- and nanorobots will be able to reach a targeted area, provide treatments and therapies for a desired duration, measure the effects and, at the conclusion of the treatment, be removed or degrade without causing adverse effects. Ideally, all these tasks would be automated but they could also be performed under the direct supervision and control of an external user.
Theranostics - a combination of the words therapeutics and diagnostics - describes a treatment platform that combines a diagnostic test with targeted therapy based on the test results, i.e. a step towards personalized medicine. Theranostic nanomedicine has the potential for simultaneous and real time monitoring of drug delivery, trafficking of drug and therapeutic responses. Researchers have now demonstrated for the first time a MRI-visual order-disorder micellar nanostructures for smart cancer theranostics.
Material science is having a renewed influence on bioelectronics design beyond the incorporation of new functional nanomaterials. This newly established cooperation opens new windows for bioelectronics research, especially for fabricating flexible and smart devices. Recent advances in graphene research provide various possibilities to enhance performance characteristics and current approaches to design new bio-devices. Especially, smart and flexible bioelectronics on graphene has emerged as a new frontier in this area.
As the use of antibiotics increases for medical, veterinary and agricultural purposes, the increasing emergence of antibiotic-resistant strains of pathogenic bacteria is an unwelcome consequence. The incidence of the multidrug resistance (MDR) of bacteria which cause infections in hospitals/intensive care units is increasing, and finding microorganisms insensitive to more than 10 different antibiotics is not unusual. The emergence of superbugs has made it imperative to search for novel methods, which can combat the microbial resistance. Thus, application of nanotechnology in pharmaceuticals and microbiology is gaining importance to prevent the catastrophic consequences of antibiotic resistance.
Conventional carbon-fiber electrodes have been the material of choice for identifying the chemical nature of neurotransmitters in the brain. Unfortunately, they have some limitations that leave some of the molecules that researchers are interested in just out of our reach. Further miniaturization of biologically compatible, carbon based electrode materials to the nanoscale promises to enhance the very characteristics that made microelectrodes so transformative in the first place, enabling high speed measurements in discrete spatial locations.
Researchers report on a novel targeted drug-delivery vehicle for cancer therapy, which can selectively target the tumor niche while delivering an array of therapeutic agents. This targeting platform is based on unique vesicles ('nanoghosts') that are produced, for the first time, from intact cell membranes of stem cells with inherent homing abilities, and which may be loaded with different therapeutics. The team showed that such vesicles, encompassing the cell surface molecules and preserving the targeting mechanism of the cells from which they were made, can outperform conventional delivery systems based on liposomes or nanoparticles.
Understanding the purpose of the molecular modifiers that annotate DNA strands - called epigenetic markers - and how they change over time will be crucial in understanding biological processes ranging from embryo development to aging and disease. But just how the markers work, and what different markers mean, is painstaking work that still has left a long way to go. Advancing this research field, scientists have now reported the first direct visualization of individual epigenetic modifications in the genome. This is a technical and conceptual breakthrough as it allows not only to quantify the amount of modified bases but also to pin point and map their position in the genome.