Saturday, July 30, 2005
The bill proposes $31.2 billion funding over the three years of fiscal years 2007-2009 for basic science and applied energy research. This would include $14.5 billion for the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, DoE’s leading civilian funding agency for physical sciences R&D. If fully authorized, these proposals would double that agency’s budget over five years
Friday, July 29, 2005
The gene, SIR2, is thought to play a role in the life extending benefits of a low-calorie diet.
Researchers at Harvard Medical School and the University of California, Davis have now discovered that four cousins of SIR2 also extend lifespan.
"We think these new Sir2 genes are as important as any longevity genes discovered so far," says molecular biologist David Sinclair, coauthor of the new study. "There is a growing realization from the aging field that we might finally understand how to control certain aspects of the aging process and one day have drugs that can fight some of the disabilities the process causes."
Sinclair's research group previously reported a genetic link between environmental stresses and longer life.
They found that such stresses as low salt, heat or extreme calorie restriction triggered a longevity
regulator called PNC1 that stimulated SIR2 activity.
The new study, reported in the journal Science and led by Harvard graduate student Dudley Lamming, shows that PNC1 regulates the entire SIR2 family of genes.
The find suggests that a human PNC1 gene might protect against diseases of aging.
Thursday, July 28, 2005
The double-action therapy, which comes packed in a tiny double chamber, leaves healthy cells unscathed.
It has proved safe and effective against melanoma and a form of lung cancer in mice.
Details of the technique, developed at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, are published in Nature.
The technique combines two methods of combating cancer - poisoning tumour cells and cutting off the blood supply to the tumour.
Previously, the dual strategy has proved difficult as chemotherapy could not be delivered to tumours if the supply line - the blood vessels - had been cut.
Also, the drugs required are delivered on different schedules - blood vessel-destroying anti-angiogenics over a prolonged period, and chemotherapy in cycles.
The MIT team tackled the problem by creating a structure for the nanocell that resembled a balloon within a balloon.
The researchers loaded the outer membrane of the nanocell with an anti-angiogenic drug and the inner balloon with chemotherapy agents.
They also created a surface chemistry which allowed the nanocell to evade detection by the immune system.
The nanocell was made small enough to pass through tumour vessels, but too large for the pores of normal vessels.
Once inside the tumour, the nanocell's outer membrane disintegrates, rapidly deploying the anti-angiogenic drug.
The blood vessels feeding the tumor then collapse, trapping the loaded nanoparticle in the tumor, where it slowly releases the chemotherapy.
Tests in mice showed the nanocell shrank the tumour, stopped angiogenesis (new vessel growth) and avoided damage to surrounding healthy tissue much more effectively than other cancer treatments.
Eight out of 10 mice treated with the nanocells survived for more than 65 days.
Mice treated with the best current therapy survived for just 30 days, while untreated animals died at 20 days.
The nanocell worked better against melanoma than lung cancer - indicating the need to tweak the design for different cancers.
Lead researcher Professor Ram Sasisekharan said: "This model enables us to rationally and systematically evaluate drug combinations and loading mechanisms.
"It's not going to stop here. We want to build on this concept."
Dr Judah Folkman, of Children's Hospital Boston, said: "It's an elegant technique for attacking the two compartments of a tumor, its vascular system and the cancer cells."
Henry Scowcroft, of Cancer Research UK, said: "This is a fascinating approach to cancer therapy that seems to be paying off in animal models of the disease.
"The idea of using nanoparticles as a sort of therapeutic 'Trojan horse', attacking the cancer cell by stealth from within, is entirely new.
"Although this concept is only starting out on the long road to becoming a treatment for cancer patients, these preliminary results look very promising indeed."
Wednesday, July 27, 2005
Tuesday, July 26, 2005
The nanoparticles, designed by researchers at the University at Buffalo, activate adult brain stem cells, suggesting that it could be possible to turn on the otherwise dormant cells to provide replacements for cells destroyed by neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's.
The nanoparticles used in the study can be synthesized easily in days.
They are created from hybrid, organically modified silica (ORMOSIL), which allows for the development of a library of tailored nanoparticles to target gene therapies for different tissues and cell types.
Nonviral vectors typically suffer from low expression and efficacy rates, especially in vivo, but the researchers say that this study is the first time a nonviral vector has shown efficacy in vivo at levels comparable to a viral vector.
In the study, targeted dopamine neurons took up and expressed a fluorescent marker gene (see image), showing that the nanoparticle technology can effectively deliver genes to specific types of brain cells.
"In the future, this technology may make it possible to repair neurological damage caused by disease, trauma or stroke," says study coauthor Earl J. Bergey.
The team next plans to conduct similar studies in larger animals.
The research is reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
A study from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine found that in just two months, stem cells harvested from a pig's bone marrow and injected into a damaged heart restored heart function and repaired damaged heart muscle by 50% to 75%.
Two people are now enrolled at Johns Hopkins in a Phase I clinical trial designed to test the safety of injecting adult stem cells at varying doses into people with a recent heart attack. The trial, from which results are expected in mid-2006, will in total involve 48 people at several sites in the US.
"Ultimately, the goal is to develop a widely applicable treatment to repair and reverse the damage done to heart muscle that has been infarcted, or destroyed, after losing its blood supply," says cardiologist Joshua Hare, senior author of the study and lead trial investigator.
"There is reason for optimism about these findings, possibly leading to a first-ever cure for heart attack in humans," he says. "If a treatment can be found for the damage done by a heart attack to heart muscle, then there is the potential to forestall the serious complications that traditionally result from a heart attack, including disturbances of heart rhythm that can lead to sudden cardiac death, and decreased muscle pumping function that can lead to congestive heart failure."
The Hopkins findings were first presented last fall at the 2004 Scientific Sessions of the American Heart Association and will be published online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Here was one of them: Instead of using live viruses to destroy diseased cells, why not send in man-made, nanoscale molecules with tiny tendrils that scientists could engineer to battle specific types of cancers?
Remember, this was the early '90s. Few had even heard of the internet, much less "nanotechnology," which was then firmly the domain of futurists, and certainly not on the radar of respectable beaker slingers.
"In fact, there was a lot of derision at NIH (National Institutes of Health) that this was not real science," Baker recalls. "But as it became clear that gene therapy was not going anywhere without different approaches, I think the reality of, the necessity of, bioengineering in this process became clear."
Today, the National Cancer Institute is on its way to becoming a Nano Cancer Institute as it prepares to spend $144.3 million over five years on the engineered nanoparticles "approach" that Baker and just a few others had championed more than a decade ago. As for Baker, he's doing rather well in his corner office at the Center for Biologic Nanotechnology with a panoramic view of downtown Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Baker had been involved in the Army's first attempts at DNA delivery of the adeno vaccine to combat acute respiratory illness among the troops. He found that not only was the body's immune system fighting off the viral-based vaccine, but the entire works were coming to "hard stops" at 150 nanometers. Things just did not get into cells very effectively beyond that.
It seemed clear to Baker that engineered nanoparticles would have to become part of the solution if they wanted to really chase after the bad guys in the body. "If we now want to fix the dysfunction of cells that lead to most of the diseases that we're currently fighting, we have to engineer at the same scale as the cells," Baker says.
That's the problem that was swirling around in Baker's head after the Gulf War. He wasn't the only scientist working on it, but he did have one advantage. He's located just 100 miles south of a nanotech pioneer: former Dow chemist Donald Tomalia, who had invented a type of particle called dendrimers. Tomalia realized -- unfortunately about two decades before the rest of the world -- that his man-made, tendriled molecule could be used in targeted drug delivery.
Tomalia saw that Baker was one of the few scientists at the time who also saw the possibilities within these sticky little nanothings. "He was a medical guy who could understand this," Tomalia says. "I think he very quickly began to realize the important implications that dendrimers would have."
All through the mid- and late '90s, Baker and Tomalia quietly experimented with these particles. A synthetic chemist and a medical researcher made for an odd couple at the time.
Lack of cooperation and understanding between the scientific disciplines is one of the toughest challenges facing nanotech researchers. Cooperation may sound simple to those outside the academic world, but cross-disciplinary collaboration is not the way universities have traditionally been organized.
That's the thinking behind the University of Michigan's new Nanotechnology Institute for Medicine and the Biological Sciences, which Baker will head. "I think any university that doesn't develop collaborative centers like this is going to be frozen out," he says.Story continued on Page 2
Monday, July 25, 2005
Sponsored by the Nanotechnology Foundation of Texas, the 2005 Nano Summit is a daylong forum for Texas natural science, engineering and medical researchers to meet and exchange information on their respective areas of expertise. With a focus on major nanoscience research activities across Texas, the conference also is of benefit to corporate research and development executives, as well as students in related disciplines. UH is a co-host of the event.
The biggest thing in the future will be very, very small. Very, very, very small.
Nanotechnology and nanoscale research deal with machines and materials on the atomic and molecular levels and have been heralded as the next industrial revolution. But nanotech promises to have an even greater effect on society, according to Dr. Greg Nordin, professor of computer and electrical engineering at the University of Alabama in Huntsville.Read Article
The protein, KDI tripeptide, works by blocking the harmful effects of a substance present in degenerative brain diseases and spinal cord injuries.
By blocking this substance, called glutamate, KDI prevents permanent cell death and helps the body heal itself.
The Finnish work from the University of Helsinki will be published online by the Journal of Neuroscience Research.
So far the researchers have tested KDI in the lab on animals and nerve cells from humans.
The findings have been promising and they hope to be able to begin treating people with nerve and degenerative brain diseases, such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease, using KDI injections within a year.
Since KDI occurs naturally in some form in the body, researchers do not believe it will have major toxic side effects. None have been noted during their work to date.
Lead researcher Dr Päivi Liesi said: "We have had such good results with animals that I think it is totally feasible we would be ready to start human clinical trials within a year."
Currently, KDI has to be injected as a solution directly to the damaged area.
However, in the future it might be possible to make the treatment as an oral drug or an intravenous injection, said Dr Liesi.
Her work builds on that of Dr George Martin from the National Institute on Ageing, at the US National Institutes of Health, who first discovered the molecule that KDI is derived from.
Dr Martin said: "This represents a new approach and one with considerable promise.
"When you look at the potential for preventing spinal cord injury progressing to total lack of physical control, to the fact that people could regenerate and regain their lives, this could be enormously important."
Dr Hugh Pearson, from the Alzheimer's Research Trust and the School of Biomedical Sciences at Leeds University, said: "This is an interesting study, though while the peptide has some significance for Alzheimer's disease treatment, it would be in slowing the mental decline associated with the disease. It does not represent a cure.
"KDI will not generate new neurons but will increase the connections between the remaining neurons in the patient's brain.
"There is some evidence that this can improve cognition in Alzheimer's disease patients."
He said there might be problems with delivery of KDI - the tripeptide would be broken down by the body if given orally or intravenously.
Although the researchers do not expect side effects, he said the peptide could upset the balance of electrical activity in neurons and this might have some short to long term side effects.
"While there are some benefits, this approach is perhaps more significant for spinal cord repair than for Alzheimer's disease, where neurite outgrowth and reconnection of nerve cells with their target will provide long-lasting repair of damage."
According to a press release on the report, scientists have long frowned on the idea that development is linked to aging.
In the new report, published in the journal Physiology, Joao Pedro de Magalhaes and George Church of Harvard Medical School argue that new evidence supports the theory that aging is driven by the same genetic processes behind development.
"We now know of several animals that can delay development and as a result delay aging as well," says de Magalhaes, the report's lead author. "Even in mammals there is growing evidence that aging is a consequence of developmental mechanisms. For instance, the pace of development influences the pace of aging, suggesting that the timing of developmental mechanisms determines the timing of aging in mammals."
The researchers do not think, however, that aging is an intentional product of evolution.
"I don't think aging is under strong selection," says de Magalhaes. "What happens, at least in higher organisms like mammals, is that evolution is not about selecting for long life. Evolution is about optimizing developmental mechanisms for reproduction. Once an organism has passed its genes to the next generation evolution gives up on it and the same genes responsible for the growth and maturation of that organism will inadvertently end up killing it. Examples include cell proliferation genes that are crucial in embryonic development but at older ages become harmful and can cause cancer and other age-related diseases."
De Magalhaes says the theory provides reason for optimism, as scientists already know many genes regulating development and aging.
"Some hormones like growth hormone and genes involved in insulin-like signaling appear to do just that: they regulate growth and development early in life and later contribute to aging," he says.
Despite this, de Magalhaes warns that there is much work to do before researchers know all of the genes involved.
"Development and aging are so complex that it will be some time before we fully understand them," he says.
Sunday, July 24, 2005
At The Guardian, a story about a military computer hacker: Game over.
Gary McKinnon has been accused of committing the 'biggest military computer hack of all time', and if extradited to the US faces up to 70 years in jail. So how did this techno geek from north London end up cracking open the Pentagon and Nasa's systems? He talks exclusively to Jon Ronson as he awaits his fate.
The most interesting part:
What was the most exciting thing you saw?" I ask.
"I found a list of officers' names," he claims, "under the heading 'Non-Terrestrial Officers'."
"Non-Terrestrial Officers?" I say.
"Yeah, I looked it up," says Gary, "and it's nowhere. It doesn't mean little green men. What I think it means is not earth-based. I found a list of 'fleet-to-fleet transfers', and a list of ship names. I looked them up. They weren't US navy ships. What I saw made me believe they have some kind of spaceship, off-planet."
Scientific American has a fascinating five page article on recovery-oriented computing; Self-Repairing Computers. This gives a nice review of the motivations behind self-healing systems, as well as the technology.
It seems a very important trend in the IT business at the moment. There's undoubtedly a huge market, HP and CA seem to be after it too - a few steps behind IBM. Expect more on this throughout the year!Appologies for the slow updates, writing all day is really draining me! Sadly, the situation will get worse before it improves
The future of solar energy is looking positively sunny: Solar concentrators using highly efficient photovoltaic solar cells are promising to reduce the cost of electricity from sunlight to competitive levels soon.
"Concentrating solar electric power is on the cusp of delivering on its promise of low-cost, reliable, solar-generated electricity at a cost that is competitive with mainstream electric generation systems," said Vahan Garboushian, president of Amonix, Inc. of Torrance, Calif. "With the advent of multijunction solar cells, PV concentrator power generation at $3 per watt is imminent in the coming few years."
Herb Hayden of Arizona Public Service (APS) and Robert McConnell and Martha Symko-Davies of the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) organized an international conference held May 1-5 in Scottsdale, Ariz. where the efficiency gains were announced and discussed.
Solar concentrator systems have been under development with Arizona Public Service's solar research facility. Photovoltaic (PV) concentrator units are much different than the flat silicon photovoltaic modules sold around the world that average 13% efficiency. PV concentrators come in larger module sizes, typically 20 kilowatts to 35 kilowatts each, they track the sun during the day and they are more suitable for large utility installations.
Ordinary, flat-plate solar modules have their entire sun-receiving surface covered with costly silicon solar cells and are positioned at a fixed tilt to the sun. In contrast, Amonix's systems offer significant cost savings by using inexpensive flat, plastic Fresnel lenses as an intermediary between the sun and the cell. These magnifying lenses focus and concentrate sunlight approximately 250 times onto a relatively small cell area. Through concentration, the required silicon cell area needed for a given amount of electricity is reduced by an amount approximating its concentration ratio (250 times). In effect, a low-cost plastic concentrator lens is being substituted for relatively expensive silicon.
"We have seen steady progress in photovoltaic concentrator technology," said Hayden, Solar Program Coordinator at APS. "We are working with advanced multijunction PV cells that are approaching 38% efficiency, and even higher is possible over time. Our goal is to install PV concentrator systems at $3 per watt, which can happen soon at production rates of 10 megawatts per year. Once that happens, higher volumes are readily achieved."With information from renewableenergyaccess.com, the leading clearinghouse on renewable power news.
Hans-Andreas Engel and Daniel Loss of the University of Basel in Switzerland have explained how to make a device called a spin-parity meter, quantum computing's equivalent of the transistor.
Although they have worked out how to build one, they have not got as far as putting one together.
Quantum computers substitute information encoded using the magnetic state
Engel and Loss have shown how it is possible to measure the spins of electrons without disturbing them and builds on work done by David DiVincenzo and his team at IBM. Their work looks at how computing can be performed by mapping data as it spreads through a network of components and is designed to avoid pitfalls in earlier quantum computing theories that treated data in a more conventional, circuit-base way.
More information on recent quantum computing developments can be read in this Nature article.
Saturday, July 23, 2005
Tucson, AZ, June 27, 2005 – Ionatron, Inc., (Nasdaq: IOTN) a next generation controlled directed energy weapon technology company, today announced that the introduction of the first field deployable JIN Counter IED system will occur on July 7th at the NASA Stennis Space Center on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. Ionatron established its production facility at the NASA Stennis Space Center on April 1st of this year. The Honorable Haley Barbour, Governor of Mississippi, will host the event. Attendees will include members of the Federal, State, and Local Government, representatives of the military, military families, as well as representatives of local and national media.
Ionatron expects to deliver 12 JIN Counter IED systems to the Government over the next 60 days from its Stennis manufacturing facility in Mississippi. Additionally, the Government has asked Ionatron, as part of the response to the Government’s statement of work, to provide a price for a minimum of 90 days of support in Iraq for these systems. The Iraq operational support, upon contract finalization, will be priced to also include equipment spares, ongoing training of military personnel and continued development and improvements of the JIN technology based on feedback from Department of Defense testing and field operations. The Company anticipates that recommended improvements will be incorporated into future production versions of the JIN technology.
Ionatron is presently performing the development and production activities under a U.S. Government letter contract, pending finalization of the formal contract for this effort. Ionatron’s pricing for the initial 12 JIN units is approximately $10 million. Spares, testing services, training and 90 days of in Iraq support are anticipated to be approximately an additional $13 million.
Ionatron and the U.S. Government Joint Team continue to work in conjunction to deliver the JIN Counter IED systems to Iraq as rapidly as possible in order to help protect our troops and Iraqi civilians and to support the Global War on Terrorism.
The safety-conscious automaker wants to test a new technology that is designed to make the car take control of steering when a driver's reaction time is slowed because of intoxication or fatigue.
The study, "Molecular Manufacturing: What, Why and How," performed by Chris Phoenix, CRN Director of Research, is available online at Wise-Nano.org. It shows how existing technologies can be coordinated toward a reachable goal of general-purpose molecular manufacturing.
"Nanosurgery: Miniaturization in surgery," is the title of an interesting item posted at the NanoTsunami site. The article is an except from a 465-page report called Nanobiotechnologies- applications, markets and companies, published by Jain PharmaBiotech.
Surgery is continuously moving towards more minimally invasive methods. The main driver of this technical evolution is patient recovery: the lesser the trauma inflicted on the patient, the shorter the recovery period.
Minimally invasive surgery, often performed by use of catheters navigating the vascular system, implies that the operator has little to no tactile or physical information about the environment near or at the surgical site [e.g., instrument force and performance; tissue density, temperature or chemistry; presence, composition, and quantity of fluids]. This information can be provided by biosensors implanted in the catheters. Nanotechnology will play an important role in the construction of miniaturized biosensing devices.
That's exciting, from a medical point of view, but it's not especially radical. However, this section...
Robotics is already developing for applications in life sciences and medicine. Robots can be programmed to perform routine surgical procedures. Nanobiotechnology introduces another dimension in robotics leading to the development of nanorobots also referred to as nanobots. Instead of performing procedures from outside the body, nanobots will be miniaturized for introduction into the body through the vascular system or at the end of catheters into various vessels and other cavities in the human body.
A surgical nanobot, programmed by a human surgeon, could act as an autonomous on-site surgeon inside the human body. Various functions such as searching for pathology, diagnosis and removal or correction of the lesion by nanomanipulation can be performed and coordinated by an on-board computer. Such concepts, once science fiction, are now considered to be within the realm of possibility. Nanorobots will have the capability to perform precise and refined intracellular surgery which is beyond the capability of manipulations by the human hand.
Surgical nanobots are moving closer to the mainstream. With capabilities "coordinated by an on-board computer," they almost certainly will be built through some form of molecular manufacturing.
A major research project into virtual reality known as "New and Emergent World models Through Individual, Evolutionary and Social Learning"—or NEW-TIES—has begun.
The project will consist of 1,000 agents (simple AI programs) which will interact together in a simulated world networked on 50 computers.
Agents will be able to move around, build things, communicate and even "reproduce."
Scientists speculate that the agents might create virtual languages and cultures.
The project is backed by a consortium of European universities and is expected to run until 2007.
There is a full New Scientist report.
The development addresses one of the major obstacles in developing hydrogen-powered cars -- the challenge of storing hydrogen in the vehicle safely and economically.
Up to now, hydrogen has been stored in high-pressure tanks, a dangerous and inefficient solution. The work was done by Dr. John Tse, a physics professor at the University of Saskatchewan, along with colleagues at the Steacie Institute for Molecular Sciences in Ottawa and Germany's Technical University of Dresden. "The second step ... is to follow it up with some hard thinking [about] how to make this compound," says Dr. Tse.