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SCI/TECH: Nano-tech Probes Sneak Inside Your Cells

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posted on Apr, 28 2005 @ 09:36 AM
A California laboratory has succeeded in creating nano-sized probes, biological and technological hybrids called "Quantum Dots", which can sneak into the interior of living cells. The probes, no larger than a few hundred or thousand atoms, are able to pass through the cell's previously impenetrable nuclear membrane by mimicking the protein layer 'cloaking' observed in certain viruses.
Their success lies in specially prepared crystalline semiconductors composed of a few hundred or thousand atoms that emit different colors of light when illuminated by a laser. Because these fluorescent probes are stable and nontoxic, they have the ability to remain in a cell’s nucleus — without harming the cell or fading out — much longer than conventional fluorescent labels. This could give biologists a ringside seat to nuclear processes that span several hours or days, such as DNA replication, genomic alterations, and cell cycle control. The long-lived probes may also allow researchers to track the effectiveness of disease-fighting drugs that target these processes.

In nature, a virus called SV40 is coated with a protein that binds to a cell’s nuclear trafficking mechanism, a ploy that gives the virus an unhindered ride inside the nucleus. Chen and Gerion obtained a portion of this protein and attached it to the quantum dot. The result is a hybrid quantum dot, part biological molecule and part nano-sized semiconductor, that is small enough to slide through the nuclear membrane’s pores and believable enough to slip past the membrane’s barriers.

In the future, they hope to tailor quantum dots to track specific chemical reactions inside nuclei, such as how proteins help repair DNA after irradiation. They have already visualized the dots’ journey from the area surrounding the nucleus to inside the nucleus, a feat that opens the door for real-time observations of nuclear trafficking mechanisms. They also hope to target other cellular organelles besides the nucleus, such as mitochondria and Golgi bodies. And because quantum dots emit different colors of light based on their size, they can be used to observe the transfer of material between cells.

Please visit the link provided for the complete story.

While still a "passive" form of nano-sized biotechnology, this development is an important step in the quest to one day produce tiny machines that will be able to repair cells from the inside, effectively reproducing, or even improving on, nature's own complex sub-cellular mechanisms. Creation is vast and complex, yet many of it's greatest mysteries are contained within the tiny confines of a single cell.

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posted on Apr, 29 2005 @ 09:06 AM
Nanotech is one of the most exciting technologies to come out in recent times. Research funding is increasingly being channeled into this science by investors who forsee a great future for it.
The science of the very small is getting big in the United States. Americans are investing more money, publishing more scientific papers and winning more patents than anyone else in the quickly growing field of nanotechnology, according to the first comprehensive federal report on the science of things only a few hundred millionths of an inch in size.

However there are some toxicity concerns with the ultra-small particles used.

Moreover, important questions about the technology's safety and oversight remain unanswered and under-studied, the report concludes. Research on the health effects of nanomaterials -- and necessary revisions in the way they are regulated -- are lagging, government officials said, even as the novel materials find their way into an ever-widening spectrum of products, including clothing, cosmetics and computer hard drives.

posted on Apr, 29 2005 @ 09:11 AM
The thing with Nanotechnology though is that as our techniques and methods improve so will our ability to predict and forsee potential problems and engineer the toxicity out.

Toxicity research hasn't been publishing much due to the fact that this is a very complicated area of research still in its infancy. The only piece of "bad" news I recieve came from a study on Bucky Balls(and the Study wasn't even a published one yet, still in the "preliminary phases")

Watch out for Hype either pro or con, those two extreme stances could ruin this industry.


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