by David Terraso

One of the difficulties of fighting cancer is that drugs often hit other non-cancerous cells, causing patients to get sick. But what if researchers could sneak cancer-fighting particles into just the cancer cells? Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology and the Ovarian Cancer Institute are working on doing just that. In the online journal BMC Cancer they detail a method that uses hydrogels - less than 100 nanometers in size - to sneak a particular type of small interfering RNA(siRNA) into cancer cells. Once in the cell the siRNA turns on the programmed cell death the body uses to kill mutated cells and help traditional chemotherapy do it’s job.

By Rebecca Brodie

Silver nanoparticles can provide a highly sensitive colorimetric method to detect melamine in infant formula claim Chinese scientists. 

The China milk scandal in 2008 when 300,000 infants became victims of melamine, a chemical usually used in fire retardants and fertilizers, contaminated milk and infant formula highlighted the need for the country to improve detection standards for chemical contaminants in foods. 

by Chris Emery

Power-generating rubber films developed by Princeton University engineers could harness natural body movements such as breathing and walking to power pacemakers, mobile phones and other electronic devices.

The material, composed of ceramic nanoribbons embedded onto silicone rubber sheets, generates electricity when flexed and is highly efficient at converting mechanical energy to electrical energy. Shoes made of the material may one day harvest the pounding of walking and running to power mobile electrical devices. Placed against the lungs, sheets of the material could use breathing motions to power pacemakers, obviating the current need for surgical replacement of the batteries that power the devices.

Nano-sized cables made with titanium dioxide (TiO2)-coated carbon nanotubes could hold the key to developing new high-capacity batteries, report chemists in Germany and China.  

Lithium-ion batteries are in great demand for applications from laptops to hybrid cars - but the list of requirements is long. They need to be lightweight, cheap and environmentally friendly, but also store enormous charge.

A research team at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has quantified the interaction of gold nanoparticles with important proteins found in human blood, an approach that should be useful in the development of nanoparticle-based medical therapies and for better understanding the physical origin of the toxicity of certain nanoparticles.

Nanoparticles show promise as vehicles for drug delivery, as medical diagnostic tools, and as a cancer treatment agent in their own right. Gold nanoparticles, spheres that vary in size between 5 and 100 billionths of a meter in diameter, are especially useful because of the many ways their metal surfaces can be “functionalized” by attaching tailored molecules to perform different tasks in the body. However, treatments require a large number of particles to be injected into the bloodstream, and these could be hazardous if they interact with the body in unforeseen ways.

With the passage of a molecule through the labyrinth of a chemical system being so critical to catalysis and other important chemical processes, computer simulations are frequently used to model potential molecule/labyrinth interactions. In the past, such simulations have been expensive and time-consuming to carry out, but now researchers with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have developed a new algorithm that should make future simulations easier and faster to compute, and yield much more accurate results.

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