For several years now, scientists have been exploring the use of patches of arrayed microneedles
as a means of “injecting” medication through the skin. Researchers at North Carolina State University are now working on something similar, but at a much smaller scale – they're developing tiny needle-covered balloons, to deliver medication to individual cells.
is a hugely promising field, but while remarkable new treatments and diagnostic tests are being developed, questions remain
about the long term effects of nanoparticles on our bodies. Adding to our understanding of these issues, researchers have now reported that the use of quantum dots - tiny luminescent crystals that can be used to monitor disease
at a cellular level - appears to be safe in primates over a one-year period.
Lately we’re hearing more and more about tiny medical and environmental diagnostic devices, that can perform a variety of tests using very small fluid samples. Working with such small samples does present a challenge, however – how do you thoroughly mix tiny amounts of different fluids, or wrangle individual drops for analysis? According to a team of scientists from the University of Washington, the answer lies in the lotus leaf.
U.S. researchers are developing a promising new approach to the targeting of individual cancer cells. The technique uses light-harvesting nanoparticles to convert laser energy into “plasmonic nanobubbles,” enabling drugs to be injected directly into the cancer cells through small holes created in the surface. Researchers claim that the delivery of chemotherapy drugs in this way is up to 30 times more effective on cancer cells than traditional drug treatments and requires less than one-tenth the clinical dose.
We've seen various experimental approaches that aim to increase the efficacy of chemotherapy while also reducing its damaging side effects by specifically targeting cancer cells
. The latest encouraging development comes from Harvard's Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering where researchers have created a barrel-like robotic device made from DNA that could carry molecular instructions into specific cells and tell them to self-destruct. Because the DNA-based device could be programmed to target a variety of cells, it could be used to treat a range of diseases in addition to providing hope in the fight against cancer.
We've been following the evolution of patient-embedded medical sensors for some time - miniature devices that run on batteries, transcutaneous (through-the-skin) induced current, even sugar
and provide constant monitoring of various metabolic parameters. Now, a team from Purdue University's Birck Nanotechnology Center has developed a prototype pressure sensor which promises to address the shortcomings of previous designs and utilizes a novel power supply: the acoustic energy from bass-heavy riffs of rap music.
We recently looked at one of the potential contenders
in the US$10 million Qualcomm Tricorder X PRIZE, which as the name suggests, was inspired by the medical tricorder of Star Trek
fame. Now scientists have developed a new way of creating Terahertz (THz) or T-rays, which they say could help make handheld devices with tricorder-like capabilities a reality.
One of the key processes in gene therapy involves taking cells from the patient, injecting a therapeutic genetic material into them, then reintroducing them to the patient’s body and letting them go to work. Unfortunately, getting that material into the cells can be tricky. While larger cells can actually be punctured with a fine needle, most human cells are too small for that approach to be possible. There are also methods of inserting random amounts of material into bulk quantities of cells, but these are inexact. Now, however, scientists at Ohio State University are reporting success with a process known as “nanochannel electroporation” (NEP), in which therapeutic biomolecules are electrically shot into cells.
Around the world, scientists have been working on ways of replacing the heart tissue that dies when a heart attack occurs. These efforts have resulted in heart "patches" that are made from actual cardiomyocytes
(heart muscle cells), or that encourage surrounding heart cells to grow into them
. One problem with some such patches, however, lies in the fact that that they consist of cardiomyocytes set within a scaffolding of poorly-conductive materials. This means that they are insulated from the electrical signals sent out by the heart, so they don't expand and contract as the heart beats. Scientists at MIT, however, may be on the way to a solution.
Some cancers, such as pancreatic and cervical cancers, are notoriously hypoxic, which means they contain low oxygen levels. Because radiation therapy needs oxygen to be effective, hypoxic areas of a tumor can be difficult to kill. To combat this, researchers at Purdue University have developed and tested a miniature electronic device that is designed to be implanted into solid tumors to generate oxygen and boost the effectiveness of radiation and chemotherapy treatments.