Fractals are structures built up from repeated sizings of a simple shape to make a complex one. A fractal is a geometric structure that can repeat itself towards infinity. Zooming in on a fragment of it, the original structure becomes visible again. In biological systems, fractal structures can be found everywhere - bronchial trees, vasculature, and nerve cells. These amazing structures can provide a specific interfacial contact mode that is highly efficient for absorbing sunlight, transporting nutrition, exchanging oxygen and carbon dioxide, and signal transduction. Researchers have now demonstrated the fabrication of programmable fractal gold nanostructured interfaces and their outstanding specific recognition of rare cancer cells from whole blood samples along with their effective release capability.
Nanomaterials hold promise as synthetic vaccines. They have the ability to deliver cargo to specific immune cells and modulate the resulting immune response. Compared to natural vaccine vectors, including engineered viruses or attenuated pathogens, synthetic nanoscale vaccines are safer, more controlled, and have the potential to be more effective. Nanoscale vaccines may also prevent, or even treat a wider range of diseases, including cancer. Researchers now have developed nanoscale polymer micelles that elicit both humoral and cellular immunity. The constructs could help in the fight against infectious diseases and cancer.
Nanotechnology is helping to revolutionize cancer hyperthermia - the treatment of cancer with heat. Certain types of nanoparticles, in particular those made of gold or iron oxide, act as transducers that absorb electromagnetic radiation and generate heat. If the nanoparticles are delivered selectively to a tumour, heat can be generated within the tumour tissue by irradiating it with an external energy source. This results in heat-induced cell death within the tumor, sparing the surrounding healthy tissues. Researchers have now developed gold nanoparticles coated with a temperature-sensitive dye. The constructs allow nanoparticle-induced heating to be monitored locally.
Scientists used a new type of biocompatible nanoparticle known as a 'porphysome' to detect and demarcate prostate tumors as small as 2mm in size. The tumors were imaged using a combination of positron emission tomography (PET) and optical imaging. PET allows doctors to detect, localize, and characterize prostate tumors non-invasively, while optical imaging allows them to find the edges of the tumor(s) during treatment. The porphysomes were also able to detect cancerous cells that had metastasized (spread) to the bone. This may allow doctors to find and treat cancer that has spread from the prostate to other parts of the body.
Carbon nanomaterials such as nanotubes or graphene not only are widely researched for their potential uses in industrial applications, they also are of great interest to biomedical engineers working on nanotechnology applications. These researchers found that incorporating carbon-based nanomaterials is effective not only as injectable nanoscale devices but also as components to enhance the function of existing biomaterials significantly. A recent article highlights different types of carbon-based nanomaterials currently used in biomedical applications.
Computed tomography (CT) scans are an imaging method that use x-rays to create pictures of cross-sections of the body. Many CT scans involve intravenously injected iodinated contrast agents - but they have drawbacks such as fast clearance and side effects. Due to these limitations, nano-sized iodinated CT contrast agents have been developed that can increase the circulation time and decrease the adverse effects. In addition to iodine, nanoparticles based on heavy atoms such as gold, lanthanides, and tantalum are used as more efficient CT contrast agents.
A comprehensive understanding of the brain remains an elusive, distant frontier. To arrive at a general theory of brain function would be an historic event, comparable to inferring quantum theory from huge sets of complex spectra and inferring evolutionary theory from vast biological field work. The proposed Brain Activity Map is a project that will tap the hive mind of experts to make headway in the understanding of the field. Engineers and nanotechnologists will be needed to help build ever smaller devices for measuring the activity of individual neurons and, later, to control how those neurons function. Recent developments in nanoscale analysis tools and in the design and synthesis of nanomaterials have generated optical, electrical, and chemical methods that can readily be adapted for use in neuroscience.
Currently developed nanotechnology-based drug delivery systems, either 'passively targeted' or 'actively targeted', do not significantly improve the delivery of drugs to target tumors. Scientists in China now propose a new-generation nanocarrier that integrates various desired functions into a single nanosystem, which can harmonize with the complex physiological environment and display different properties sequentially, thus resulting in an excellent targeting effect and satisfactory biodistribution of drugs.