TAG: "Nanotechnology"

New Nano3 microscope to allow high-resolution look inside cells


Instrument could pave way for new treatments and drug discovery.

FEI Scios dual-beam microscope

UC San Diego’s Nanofabrication Cleanroom Facility (Nano3) is the first institution to obtain a novel FEI Scios dual-beam microscope, with an adaptation for use at cryogenic temperatures. The new microscope will enable research among a highly diverse user base, ranging from materials science to structural and molecular biology.

As Nano3 Technical Director Bernd Fruhberger explains: “There is a tremendous interest in utilizing this instrument among faculty from multiple departments. The departments of nanoengineering, materials and aerospace engineering, electrical and computer engineering, chemistry, physics and biology at UC San Diego all have projects in need of this tool, and have been actively involved in making the procurement of the tool a reality.

“The instrument provides state-of-the-art capabilities for cross-sectioning, preparation of sections for transmission electron microscopy and more,” he adds, “but what truly differentiates it is the novel cryo-capability, which will make it possible for cell biologists to see the structures of biological cells in higher resolution to better understand how cells function at a molecular level. This could possibly pave the way for new treatments and drug discovery.”

Elizabeth Villa, a new assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry at UC San Diego, along with her colleagues at Germany’s Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry, adapted a focused-ion-beam microscope for biological applications during her postdoctoral studies. The design was adopted by the Dutch company FEI into a first-of-a-kind prototype that Villa will further develop in UC San Diego in collaboration with the company.

Villa notes that UC San Diego has an established academic tradition in the area of molecular imaging –most notably reflected in the work of biochemist Roger Tsien. Tsien won the 2008 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the discovery and development of the green fluorescent protein, which revolutionized the fields of cell biology and neurobiology by allowing scientists to peer inside living cells and watch their behavior in real time.

“What I’m doing is similar,” explains Villa, “only I’m using electron microscopy, which gives us higher-resolution images. The idea behind our method is to bring together people who do structural biology with people who do cell biology by using a new tool that will allow us to see the structures of the cells, at high resolution, and better understand what molecules are doing.”

Read more

For more health news, visit UC Health, subscribe by email or follow us on Flipboard.

CATEGORY: NewsComments Off

Livermore Lab to develop next-generation neural devices with $5.6M grant


Technology will help doctors better understand, treat PTSD, traumatic brain injury.

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory engineer Kedar Shah works on a neural device at the Lab's Center for Micro- and Nanotechnology.

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory recently received $5.6 million from the Department of Defense’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to develop an implantable neural interface with the ability to record and stimulate neurons within the brain for treating neuropsychiatric disorders.

The technology will help doctors to better understand and treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), chronic pain and other conditions.

Several years ago, researchers at Lawrence Livermore in conjunction with Second Sight Medical Products developed the world’s first neural interface (an artificial retina) that was successfully implanted into blind patients to help partially restore their vision. The new neural device is based on similar technology used to create the artificial retina.

“DARPA is an organization that advances technology by leaps and bounds,” said LLNL’s project leader Satinderpall Pannu, director of the Lab’s Center for Micro- and Nanotechnology and Center for Bioengineering, a facility dedicated to fabricating biocompatible neural interfaces. “This DARPA program will allow us to develop a revolutionary device to help patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders and other neural conditions.”

The project is part of DARPA’s SUBNETS (Systems-Based Neurotechnology for Emerging Therapies) program. The agency is launching new programs to support President Obama’s BRAIN (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies) Initiative, a new research effort aimed to revolutionize our understanding of the human mind and uncover ways to treat, prevent and cure brain disorders.

LLNL and Medtronic are collaborating with UC San Francisco, UC Berkeley, Cornell University, New York University, PositScience Inc. and Cortera Neurotechnologies on the DARPA SUBNETS project. Some collaborators will be developing the electronic components of the device, while others will be validating and characterizing it.

As part of its collaboration with LLNL, Medtronic will consult on the development of new technologies and provide its investigational Activa PC+S deep brain stimulation (DBS) system, which is the first to enable the sensing and recording of brain signals while simultaneously providing targeted DBS. This system has recently been made available to leading researchers for early-stage research and could lead to a better understanding of how various devastating neurological conditions develop and progress. The knowledge gained as part of this collaboration could lead to the next generation of advanced systems for treating neural disease.

The LLNL Neural Technology group will develop an implantable neural device with hundreds of electrodes by leveraging their thin-film neural interface technology, a more than tenfold increase over current Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) devices. The electrodes will be integrated with electronics using advanced LLNL integration and 3D packaging technologies. The goal is to seal the electronic components in miniaturized, self-contained, wireless neural hardware. The microelectrodes that are the heart of this device are embedded in a biocompatible, flexible polymer.

Surgically implanted into the brain, the neural device is designed to help researchers understand the underlying dynamics of neuropsychiatric disorders and re-train neural networks to unlearn these disorders and restore proper function. This will enable the device to be eventually removed from the patient instead of being dependent on it.

Using the Center for Micro- and Nanotechnology’s unique capabilities, Pannu and his team of engineers have achieved 25 patents and many publications during the last decade. The team’s goal with the DARPA SUBNETS program is to build a prototype neural device in four years for clinical trials at UCSF.

“We are very excited about this project,” Pannu said. “This is a great opportunity to develop therapies that have the potential to advance health care for our service members, veterans and the general public.”

View original article

CATEGORY: NewsComments Off

Targeting tumors using silver nanoparticles


New platform increases efficacy of drug delivery, allows excess particles to be washed away.

Prostate cancer cells were targeted by two separate silver nanoparticles (red and green), while the cell nucleus was labeled in blueusing Hoescht dye.

Scientists at UC Santa Barbara have designed a nanoparticle that has a couple of unique — and important — properties. Spherical in shape and silver in composition, it is encased in a shell coated with a peptide that enables it to target tumor cells. What’s more, the shell is etchable so those nanoparticles that don’t hit their target can be broken down and eliminated. The research findings appear today in the journal Nature Materials.

The core of the nanoparticle employs a phenomenon called plasmonics. In plasmonics, nanostructured metals such as gold and silver resonate in light and concentrate the electromagnetic field near the surface. In this way, fluorescent dyes are enhanced, appearing about tenfold brighter than their natural state when no metal is present. When the core is etched, the enhancement goes away and the particle becomes dim.

UCSB’s Ruoslahti Research Laboratory also developed a simple etching technique using biocompatible chemicals to rapidly disassemble and remove the silver nanoparticles outside living cells. This method leaves only the intact nanoparticles for imaging or quantification, thus revealing which cells have been targeted and how much each cell internalized.

“The disassembly is an interesting concept for creating drugs that respond to a certain stimulus,” said Gary Braun, a postdoctoral associate in the Ruoslahti Lab in the Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology (MCDB) and at Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute. “It also minimizes the off-target toxicity by breaking down the excess nanoparticles so they can then be cleared through the kidneys.”

For more health news, visit UC Health, subscribe by email or follow us on Flipboard.

CATEGORY: NewsComments Off

Using light-heated water to deliver drugs


UC San Diego researchers use near-infrared light to warm water-infused particles.

In this schematic representation, a hydrated polymeric nanoparticle is exposed to near-infrared light. The NIR heats pockets of water inside the nanoparticle, causing the polymer soften and allowing encapsulated molecules to diffuse into the surrounding environment.

Researchers from the UC San Diego Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, in collaboration with materials scientists, engineers and neurobiologists, have discovered a new mechanism for using light to activate drug-delivering nanoparticles and other targeted therapeutic substances inside the body.

This discovery represents a major innovation, said Adah Almutairi, Ph.D., associate professor and director of the joint UC San Diego-KACST Center of Excellence in Nanomedicine. Up to now, she said, only a handful of strategies using light-triggered release from nanoparticles have been reported.

The mechanism, described in today’s (April 1) online issue of ACS Nano, employs near-infrared (NIR) light from a low-power laser to heat pockets of water trapped within non-photo-responsive polymeric nanoparticles infused with drugs. The water pockets absorb the light energy as heat, which softens the encapsulating polymer and allows the drug to be released into the surrounding tissue. The process can be repeated multiple times, with precise control of the amount and dispersal of the drug.

“A key advantage of this mechanism is that it should be compatible with almost any polymer, even those that are commercially available,” said Mathieu Viger, a postdoctoral fellow in Almutairi’s laboratory and co-lead author of the study. “We’ve observed trapping of water within particles composed of all the biodegradable polymers we’ve so far tested.”

The method, noted Viger, could thus be easily adopted by many biological laboratories.

Read more

For more health news, visit UC Health, subscribe by email or follow us on Flipboard.

CATEGORY: NewsComments Off

How an entrepreneurial engineering education nurtured a biotech startup


UC San Diego alum Michael Benchimol is working to make chemotherapy more effective.

Michael Benchimol

Identify a real-world problem. Engineer a solution. And, if the solution works, figure out how it can be commercially viable. That’s what Michael Benchimol said he learned over seven years of working in the laboratory of Sadik Esener, a professor in the departments of nanoengineering and electrical and computer engineering at the University of California, San Diego. In Benchimol’s (Ph.D., electrical engineering, ’12) case, it specifically means building a company to advance a targeted drug delivery platform that could make chemotherapy more effective and less toxic to the healthy tissue in the body.

“I like to build things. That’s the engineering side of me,” said Benchimol, who also earned a master’s in electrical engineering at UC San Diego in 2008. “Creating a company was just a different form of creating something from nothing. I always had that interest and I saw that there was an opportunity here.”

The opportunity is a method of delivering chemotherapy drugs directly to cancerous tumors in the body, a longtime goal of next-generation cancer therapy research due to the toxic effects the drugs can have on the rest of the body. The field is enjoying a research heyday in part thanks to advances specifically in the area of nanotechnology. Benchimol says nanotechnology is enabling cancer researchers to leverage the best properties of cancer drugs and biocompatible materials, in a single therapy that can circulate undetected by the body’s immune system.

His company, Sonrgy, recently entered an exclusive licensing agreement with UC San Diego to further develop the company’s technology, which resulted from his Ph.D. and postdoctoral research at the Jacobs School of Engineering and UCSD Moores Cancer Center, where Esener, also directs the NanoTumor Center. Benchimol’s solution is unique in that it doesn’t rely on “tumor receptors” that the nanoparticle can seek out and “stick to” before releasing the drug. Rather, the Sonrgy platform, called SonRx, uses nanocarriers smaller than human cells that carry chemotherapy drugs through the body where they can be released at the tumor site by a doctor deploying ultrasound. The technology is in the preclinical stage.

“The SonRx technology addresses longstanding challenges related to stability and controlled release in nano-scale drug delivery,” said Michael Benchimol, who is Sonrgy’s chief technology officer, in a company statement about the licensing agreement.

Read more

For more health news, visit UC Health, subscribe by email or follow us on Flipboard.

CATEGORY: NewsComments Off

How Staph cells adhere to nanostructures


Berkeley Lab-led research could guide development of bacteria-resistant materials.

This scanning electron microscopy image reveals how Staphylococcus aureus cells physically interact with a nanostructure. A bacterial cell (blue) is embedded inside the hollow nanopillar's hole and several cells cling to the nanopillar's curved walls. (Credit: Mofrad lab and the Nanomechanics Research Institute)

The bacterium Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) is a common source of infections that occur after surgeries involving prosthetic joints and artificial heart valves. The grape-shaped microorganism adheres to medical equipment, and if it gets inside the body, it can cause a serious and even life-threatening illness called a Staph infection. The recent discovery of drug-resistant strains of S. aureus makes matters even worse.

A Staph infection can’t start unless Staphylococcus cells first cling to a surface, however, which is why scientists are hard at work exploring bacteria-resistant materials as a line of defense.

This research has now gone nanoscale, thanks to a team of researchers led by Berkeley Lab scientists. They investigated, for the first time, how individual S. aureus cells glom onto metallic nanostructures of various shapes and sizes that are not much bigger than the cells themselves.

They found that bacterial adhesion and survival rates vary depending on the nanostructure’s shape. Their work could lead to a more nuanced understanding of what makes a surface less inviting to bacteria.

“By understanding the preferences of bacteria during adhesion, medical implant devices can be fabricated to contain surface features immune to bacteria adhesion, without the requirement of any chemical modifications,” says Mohammad Mofrad, a faculty scientist in Berkeley Lab’s Physical Biosciences Division and a professor of bioengineering and mechanical engineering at UC Berkeley.

Mofrad conducted the research with the Physical Biosciences Division’s Zeinab Jahed, the lead author of the study and a graduate student in Mofrad’s UC Berkeley Molecular Cell Biomechanics Laboratory, in collaboration with scientists from Canada’s University of Waterloo.

Their research was recently published online in the journal Biomaterials.

Read more

For more health news, visit UC Health, subscribe by email or follow us on Flipboard.

CATEGORY: NewsComments Off

Scientists develop new nanoscale method to fight cancer


Nanovalves have special molecules that respond to energy from two-photon light exposure.

Jeffrey Zink, UCLA

Researchers from UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center have developed an innovative cancer-fighting technique in which custom-designed nanoparticles carry chemotherapy drugs directly to tumor cells and release their cargo when triggered by a two-photon laser in the infrared red wavelength.

The research findings by UCLA’s Jeffrey Zink, a professor of chemistry and biochemistry, and Fuyu Tamanoi, a professor of microbiology, immunology and molecular genetics, and their colleagues were published online Feb. 20 in the journal Small and will appear in a later print edition.

Light-activated drug delivery holds promise for treating cancer because it give doctors control over precisely when and where in the body drugs are released. Delivering and releasing chemotherapy drugs so that they hit only tumor cells and not surrounding healthy tissues can greatly reduce treatment side effects and increase the drugs’ cancer-killing effect. But the development of a drug-delivery system that responds to tissue-penetrating light has been a major challenge.

To address this, the teams of Tamanoi and Zink, which included scientists from the Jonsson Cancer Center’s cancer nanotechnology and signal transduction and therapeutics programs, collaborated with Jean-Olivier Durand from France’s University of Montpellier to develop a new type of nanoparticle that can absorb energy from tissue-penetrating light.

Read more

For more health news, visit UC Health, subscribe by email or follow us on Flipboard.

CATEGORY: NewsComments Off

How nanotechnology can help fight cancer


UCLA researcher highlights advances.

Dean Ho, UCLA

Dean Ho, UCLA

As cancer maintains its standing as the second leading cause of death in the U.S., researchers have continued their quest for safer and more effective treatments. Among the most promising advances has been the rise of nanomedicine, the application of tiny materials and devices whose sizes are measured in the billionths of a meter to detect, diagnose and treat disease.

A new research review co-authored by a UCLA professor provides one of the most comprehensive assessments to date of research on nanomedicine-based approaches to treating cancer and offers insight into how researchers can best position nanomedicine-based cancer treatments for FDA approval.

The article, by Dean Ho, professor of oral biology and medicine at the UCLA School of Dentistry, and Edward Chow, assistant professor at the Cancer Science Institute of Singapore and the National University of Singapore, was published online by the peer-reviewed journal Science Translational Medicine. Ho and Chow describe the paths that nanotechnology-enabled therapies could take — and the regulatory and funding obstacles they could encounter — as they progress through safety and efficacy studies.

Read more

For more health news, visit UC Health, subscribe by email or follow us on Flipboard.

CATEGORY: NewsComments Off

Nanosponge vaccine fights MRSA toxins


Approach could be used to create vaccines that protect against a wide range of toxins.

The glowing yellow specks in the image show uptake of the nanosponge vaccine by a mouse dendritic cell, which is an immune-system cell.

The glowing yellow specks in the image show uptake of the nanosponge vaccine by a mouse dendritic cell, which is an immune-system cell.

Nanosponges that soak up a dangerous pore-forming toxin produced by MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) could serve as a safe and effective vaccine against this toxin. This “nanosponge vaccine” enabled the immune systems of mice to block the adverse effects of the alpha-haemolysin toxin from MRSA — both within the bloodstream and on the skin. Nanoengineers from UC San Diego described the safety and efficacy of this nanosponge vaccine in the Dec. 1 issue of Nature Nanotechnology.

The nanosponges at the foundation of the experimental “toxoid vaccine” platform are bio-compatible particles made of a polymer core wrapped in a red-blood-cell membrane. Each nanosponge’s red-blood-cell membrane seizes and detains the Staphylococcus aureus (staph) toxin alpha-haemolysin without compromising the toxin’s structural integrity through heating or chemical processing. These toxin-studded nanosponges served as vaccines capable of triggering neutralizing antibodies and fighting off otherwise lethal doses of the toxin in mice.

Toxoid vaccines protect against a toxin or set of toxins, rather than the organism that produces the toxin(s). As the problem of antibiotic resistance worsens, toxoid vaccines offer a promising approach to fight infections without reliance on antibiotics.

Liangfang Zhang, UC San Diego

Liangfang Zhang, UC San Diego

“With our toxoid vaccine, we don’t have to worry about antibiotic resistance. We directly target the alpha-haemolysin toxin,” said Liangfang Zhang, a nanoengineering professor at UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering and the senior author on the paper. Targeting the alpha-haemolysin toxin directly has another perk. “These toxins create a toxic environment that serves as a defense mechanism which makes it harder for the immune system to fight Staph bacteria,” explained Zhang.

Beyond MRSA and other staph infections, the nanosponge vaccine approach could be used to create vaccines that protect against a wide range of toxins, including those produced by E. coli and H. pylori.

This work from Zhang’s Nanomaterials and Nanomedicine Laboratory at the UC San Diego included nanoengineering post-doctoral researcher Che-Ming “Jack” Hu, nanoengineering graduate student Ronnie Fang, and bioengineering graduate student Brian Luk.

The researchers found that their nanosponge vaccine was safe and more effective than toxoid vaccines made from heat-treated staph toxin. After one injection, just 10 percent of staph-infected mice treated with the heated version survived, compared to 50 percent for those who received the nanosponge vaccine. With two more booster shots, survival rates with the nanosponge vaccine were up to 100 percent, compared to 90 percent with the heat-treated toxin.

“The nanosponge vaccine was also able to completely prevent the toxin’s damages in the skin, where MRSA infections frequently take place,” said Zhang, who is also affiliated with the Moores Cancer Center at UC San Diego.

Read more

For more health news, visit UC Health, subscribe by email or follow us on Flipboard.

CATEGORY: NewsComments Off

Discovery could increase survival in sepsis


UC Santa Barbara findings have potential to translate into millions of saved lives.

Jamey Marth, UC Santa Barbara

Jamey Marth, UC Santa Barbara

Sepsis, the body’s response to severe infections, kills more people than breast cancer, prostate cancer and HIV/AIDS combined. On average, 30 percent of those diagnosed with sepsis die.

A study conducted by Jamey Marth, director of UC Santa Barbara’s Center for Nanomedicine and professor of the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute, reports a new method to increase survival in sepsis. The results appear today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

Building on earlier work in which Marth’s team revealed the biological purpose of the Ashwell-Morell receptor (AMR) in the liver, the new discovery not only describes the AMR’s protective mechanism, but also outlines a way to leverage it for therapeutic use. Sepsis often triggers widespread blood coagulation and thrombosis, which can lead to organ failure and death.

The researchers found that the AMR protects the host by the rapid removal of the prothrombotic components normally present in the bloodstream, including platelets and specific coagulation factors that contribute to the formation of blood clots. The study elucidates this mechanism of AMR function in mitigating the lethal effects of excessive blood coagulation and thrombosis in sepsis.

The key is neuraminidase, an enzyme that is present in many pathogenic microorganisms, such as Streptococcus pneumoniae, the bacteria used in this study, which remains one of the top five causes of death worldwide. Pathogens use neuraminidase to get into cells, but once the pathogen enters the bloodstream, the enzyme then remodels the surface of platelets and other glycoproteins in circulation. This remodeling signals the AMR to remove those platelets and coagulation factors before they have a chance to contribute to the lethal coagulopathy of sepsis.

“It’s a highly conserved protective mechanism never before identified,” said Marth, who is also Carbon Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and Mellichamp Professor of Systems Biology at UCSB. “The host has evolved this protective mechanism over millions of years as a way to compensate for the lethal impact of the pathogen on our coagulation system.”

The scientists wondered what would happen if they could pre-activate and augment AMR function in the early phases of sepsis. To answer that question, they infected mice with Streptococcus pneumoniae and then gave them a single dose of neuraminidase. “We were able to increase survival twofold,” said Marth. “It’s remarkable, and because we see the same mechanism active in human sepsis there is excitement by the potential of this approach to save millions of lives.”

For more health news, visit UC Health, subscribe by email or follow us on Flipboard.

CATEGORY: NewsComments Off

Researchers’ two-step method shows promise in fighting pancreatic cancer


Techniques uses two types of nanoparticles.

Andre Nel, UCLA

Andre Nel, UCLA

Researchers at UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center have developed a new technique for fighting deadly and hard-to-treat pancreatic cancer that uses two different types of nanoparticles, the first type clearing a path into tumor cells for the second, which delivers chemotherapy drugs.

The research team, led by Dr. Andre Nel, a UCLA professor of nanomedicine and a member of the California NanoSystems Institute at UCLA, and Dr. Huan Meng, a UCLA adjunct assistant professor of nanomedicine, has shown that this new drug-delivery technique is effective in treating pancreatic cancer in a mouse model.

The results of the study are published online in the journal ACS Nano and will be featured in the November 2013 print issue.

Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma, or pancreatic cancer, is a deadly disease that is nearly impossible to detect until it is in the advanced stage. Treatment options are limited and have low success rates. The need for innovative and improved treatment of pancreatic cancer cannot be overstated, the researchers said, as a pancreatic cancer diagnosis has often been synonymous with a death sentence.

Read more

For more health news, visit UC Health, subscribe by email or follow us on Flipboard.

 

CATEGORY: NewsComments Off

The future of dental implants?


Nanodiamonds could be used to improve bone growth, prevent dental implant failure.

NanodiamondsUCLA researchers have discovered that diamonds on a much, much smaller scale than those used in jewelry could be used to promote bone growth and the durability of dental implants.

Nanodiamonds, which are created as byproducts of conventional mining and refining operations, are approximately four to five nanometers in diameter and are shaped like tiny soccer balls.

Scientists from the UCLA School of Dentistry, the UCLA Department of Bioengineering and Northwestern University, along with collaborators at the NanoCarbon Research Institute in Japan, may have found a way to use them to improve bone growth and combat osteonecrosis, a potentially debilitating disease in which bones break down due to reduced blood flow.

When osteonecrosis affects the jaw, it can prevent people from eating and speaking; when it occurs near joints, it can restrict or preclude movement. Bone loss also occurs next to implants such as prosthetic joints or teeth, which leads to the implants becoming loose — or failing.

Implant failures necessitate additional procedures, which can be painful and expensive, and can jeopardize the function the patient had gained with an implant. These challenges are exacerbated when the disease occurs in the mouth, where there is a limited supply of local bone that can be used to secure the prosthetic tooth, a key consideration for both functional and aesthetic reasons.

The study, led by Dr. Dean Ho, professor of oral biology and medicine and co-director of the Jane and Jerry Weintraub Center for Reconstructive Biotechnology at the UCLA School of Dentistry, appears online in the peer-reviewed Journal of Dental Research.

Read more

CATEGORY: NewsComments Off