Newly-Developed Nanobiosensor Quickly Diagnoses Cancer


Nano Sensor for Cancer 50006Iranian materials engineering researchers from Sharif University of Technology produced a biosensor for the early diagnosis of cancer.

The sensor has been made of nanostructured materials, and has high sensitivity and stability while it can be produced through a cost-effective method.

 

One of the most famous genes in cancer researches is TP53 tumor gene. The determination of its mutation is an important parameter in the detection of tumor respond to treatment. Aggressive growth of some types of cancers is caused by the mutation of this gene. Therefore, the detection and investigation of specific sequence of the gene can be very useful to observe the progress of cancer and treatment of the patient. It can be concluded that the production of a very sensitive biosensor and the development of quick DNA detection methods are vital for early diagnosis of cancer. Among the present methods, electrochemical biosensors provide the chance for simple, quick and sensitive detection of DNA sequence (hybridation phenomenon).

Nano Sensor for Cancer 50006

The aim of the research was to produce and study an ultra sensitive nanobiosensor for quick detection of DNA sequences related to the mutation of cancer genes, including TP53, for early diagnosis and treatment of cancers in humans. TP53 cancer gene has been introduced as one of the most famous genes in cancer researches.

Simple production method, low cost, quick response, high sensitivity and wide linear detection range are among the characteristics of the produced nanobiosensor. The sensor also has appropriate stability (14 days) and selectivity, and it has the ability to be reproduced.

A part of the research has been recently published in Alaytica Chimica Acta, vol. 836, issue 1, August 2014, pp. 34-44.

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IBM Solar Dish Does Double Duty


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IBM Researchers build solar concentrator that generates electricity and enough heat for desalination or cooling.

Cooling a supercomputer can provide clues on how to make solar power cheap, says IBM.

IBM Research today detailed a prototype solar dish that uses a water-cooling technology it developed for its high-end computers (see “Hot Water Helps Super-Efficient Supercomputer Keep Its Cool”). The solar concentrator uses low-cost components and produces both electricity and heat, which could be used for desalination or to run an air conditioner.

IBM%20parabolic%20dish

Researchers envision giant concentrators, built with low-cost materials, that produce electricity and heat for use in desalination or cooling. Credit: IBM Research.

The work, funded by $2.4 million grant from the Swiss Commission for Technology and Innovation, is being done by IBM Research, the Swiss company Airlight Energy, and Swiss researchers. Since this is outside IBM’s main business, it’s not clear how the technology would be commercialized. But the high-concentration photovoltaic thermal (HCPVT) system promises to be cost-effective, according to IBM, and the design offers some insights into how to use concentrating solar power for both heat and electricity.

Typically, parabolic dishes concentrate sunlight to produce heat, which can be transfered to another machine or used to drive a Stirling engine that makes electricity (see “Running a Marine Unit on Solar and Diesel”). With this device, IBM and its partners used a solar concentrator dish to shine light on a thin array of highly efficient triple-junction solar cells, which produce electricity from sunlight. By concentrating the light 2,000 times onto hundreds of one-centimeter-square cells, IBM projects, a full-scale concentrator could provide 25 kilowatts of power.

In this design, the engineers hope to both boost the output of the solar cells and make use of the heat produced by the concentrator. Borrowing its liquid-cooling technology for servers, IBM built a cooling system with pipes only a few microns off the photovoltaic cells to circulate water and carry away the heat. More than 50 percent of the waste heat is recovered. “Instead of just throwing away the heat, we’re using the waste heat for processes such as desalination or absorption cooling,” says Bruno Michel, manager, advanced thermal packaging at IBM Research.

Researchers expect they can keep the cost down with a tracking system made out of concrete rather than metal. Instead of mirrored glass on the concentrator dish, they plan to use metal foils. They project the cost to be 10 cents per kilowatt-hour in desert regions that have the appropriate sunlight, such as the Sahara in northern Africa.

One of the primary challenges of such a device, apart from keeping costs down and optimizing efficiency, is finding a suitable application. The combined power and thermal generator only makes sense in places where the waste heat can be used at least during part of the day. The researchers envision it could be used in sunny locations without adequate fresh water reserves or, potentially, in remote tourist resorts on islands. In those cases, the system would need to be easy to operate and reliable.

Greater Cycle Life Lithium-Sulfur Batteries Using Nitrogen-Doped Carbon Nanotubes


L Io Batts id36790Sulfur is a very intriguing solution for the design of high energy density storage devices. The lithium-sulfur battery theoretically delivers energy density of 2600 Wh kg-1, which is 3-5 times higher than traditional lithium-ion batteries.

Copyright Michael Berger

 

Unfortunately, several obstacles so far have prevented the practical demonstration of sulfur-based cathodes for Li-S batteries. Among them, the most important one is the rapid capacity fading. “The fast capacity decay of lithium-sulfur battery is ascribed to multifaceted aspects,” Dr. Qiang Zhang, an associate professor at Department of Chemical Engineering at Tsinghua University, tells Nanowerk. “One of the most widely accepted reasons is assigned to the intermediate polysulfides.” Polysulfides are a variety of transition forms of partially lithiated sulfur, which is highly polar and soluble in organic electrolytes. During discharge, they dissolve in the electrolyte, diffuse from cathode to anode, and react with the lithium anode.

“The active materials lose in this way, undoubtedly causing capacity fading,” says Zhang. “While considerable research endeavor is dedicated to solving this problem, what we are interested in is another rarely addressed issue regarding the capacity fading: the dynamic fluctuation of affinity between different sulfur species and conductive host materials.” He continues to explain that, because of the multi-electron-transfer process, sulfur species vary from the initial elemental sulfur, intermediate polysulfides, and final discharge product of lithium sulfides. “Sulfur is unpolar, thus exhibits highest affinity to conventional carbon hosts,” he says. “But polysulfides and lithium sulfides are highly polar, weakening the interaction between them and carbon.

Due to this poor interaction, they easily detach from the carbon host and contribute no capacity. As a result, the performance of a lithium-sulfur battery deteriorates rapidly when only pure carbon hosts is employed.” Consequently, he concludes, the key issue lies in how to choose an ideal host material with high affinity to both unpolar sulfur and polar polysulfides, as well as lithium sulfides.

In new work published in the July 24, 2014 online edition of Advanced Materials Interfaces (“Strongly Coupled Interfaces between a Heterogeneous Carbon Host and a Sulfur-Containing Guest for Highly Stable Lithium-Sulfur Batteries: Mechanistic Insight into Capacity Degradation”), Zhang and his collaborators developed a novel strategy towards highly stable Li-S batteries by building a strongly coupled interface between surface- mediated carbon hosts and various sulfur-containing guests.

Schematic illustration of strongly coupled interfaces between N-doped carbon host and S-containing guest for highly stable Li-S batterySchematic illustration of strongly coupled interfaces between N-doped carbon host and S-containing guest for highly stable Li-S battery. (Reprinted with permission by Wiley-VCH Verlag) (click on image to enlarge)

In this work, the team used nitrogen-doped carbon nanotubes as host material for the sulfur cathode: Nitrogen atoms with higher electronegativity are incorporated into the graphitic lattices of pristine carbon nanotubes, thereby providing a capability to tune their electronic structure and surface properties.

How do the doping nitrogen atoms affect the electrochemical behavior when nitrogen-doped carbon nanotubes are applied to lithium-sulfur battery? Hong-Jie Peng, a graduate student in Zhang’s group and the paper’s first author, answers this question:

“Firstly, we conducted a density functional theory (DFT) study and designed three molecular models to illustrate pure carbon, carbon with nitrogen at the edge – which we called pyridinic nitrogen – and carbon with nitrogen substituting the central carbon atom, which we called quaternary nitrogen.” “Through theoretical calculations, we found that nitrogen-doped carbon nanotubes exhibited stronger interaction with polysulfides and lithium sulfides,” he continues. “This is attributed to the adsorption of these polar sulfur species on the negatively charged nitrogen-doped sites.

It revealed that nitrogen-doped carbon nanotubes might be worth trying as host materials.” In their experiments, the team then prepared nitrogen-doped carbon nanotube/sulfur composites and assembled batteries to check if their theoretical results were reliable. “We were very happy to see that the electrochemical experiment matched our theoretical prediction very well,” says Peng.

“Compared to pristine carbon nanotubes-based host materials, the cycling life was significantly enhanced by six times.” In conclusion, this work highlights the importance of a stable dynamic interface between carbon hosts and sulfur-containing guests and sheds new light on the lithium-sulfur battery decay mechanism. “In fact” says Zhang, “the concept of building heterogeneous cathode scaffold won’t stop here. More advanced host materials satisfying the demand of amphiphilicity to both unpolar and polar sulfur species need to be explored.

Are Fullerene-Based Nanomaterials Harmful to the Environment? $300k National Science Foundation Grant to Research and Seek Answers


UNIVERSITY OF WATERLOO - New $5 million labRochester Institute of Technology’s Golisano Institute for Sustainability (GIS) and Thomas H. Gosnell School of Life Sciences are the recipients of a new research grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to study the lifecycle environmental impacts of fullerene-based materials—a form of engineered nanomaterials used in solar cells, drug delivery systems and cosmetics.
Callie Babbitt, assistant professor at GIS, is serving as principal investigator for the $300,854 research grant. Gabrielle Gaustad, also a GIS assistant professor, and Christy Tyler, associate professor at the Gosnell School, will assist Babbitt in the research along with Gosnell Assistant Professor Sandi Connelly.
Callie Babbitt, Christy Tyler, Gabrielle Gaustad and Sandi Connelly
Researchers (left to right) Callie Babbitt, Christy Tyler, Gabrielle Gaustad and Sandi Connelly set up an experiment to test the ecological impact of fullerene exposure on samples of sediment from a Finger Lakes ecosystem.
While nanomaterials enable new technologies that benefit society, including applications in medicine, water treatment and renewable energy, “their potential for release into the natural environment and ultimate impact on ecosystem health is poorly understood,” according to Babbitt.
“Through this research, we hope to quantify the risks of these emerging materials—both when they are released into an ecosystem as well as when they are produced, which often has its own toxicity risks due to high electricity and chemical consumption,” Babbitt said.
The research project, which began earlier this month and is scheduled to be completed by the summer of 2017, will analyze the potential toxicity of fullerenes on aquatic organisms and then model the broader impact of nanomaterials exposure on a freshwater ecosystem. In addition, RIT researchers plan to analyze variability in the ecological impact between alternate fullerene production methods; uses in both solar cells and products such as face creams/cosmetics; and disposal pathways such as landfills or recycling.
According to Babbitt, research findings will also be integrated into educational modules developed for classroom and summer enrichment programs aimed at engaging K-12 students—primarily from underrepresented groups—in sustainability research and inspiring them to pursue careers in sustainability as well as other science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields.
NSF is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. The foundation’s funding reaches all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives about 50,000 competitive requests for funding, and makes about 11,500 new funding awards. NSF also awards about $593 million in professional and service contracts yearly.
Source: Rochester Institute of Technology

Converging Technologies with Mark Lundstrom


Applications of Nanomaterials Chart Picture1Mark Lundstrom, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Purdue University, discusses converging technologies at the National Science Foundation. This video is part of a series produced by NSF and the Science & Technology Innovation Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

For more information, please visit: http://www.wilsoncenter.org/convergence

Nanomaterials Give Boost to Immune Cells to Fight Cancer


immunecellsg(Phys.org) —Scientists at Yale University have developed a novel cancer immunotherapy that rapidly grows and enhances a patient’s immune cells outside the body using carbon nanotube-polymer composites; the immune cells can then be injected back into a patient’s blood to boost the immune response or fight cancer.

As reported Aug. 3 in Nature Nanotechnology, the researchers used bundled carbon nanotubes (CNTs) to incubate cytotoxic T cells, a type of white blood cell that is important to . According to the researchers, the topography of the CNTs enhances interactions between cells and long-term cultures, providing a fast and effective stimulation of the cytotoxic T cells that are important for eradicating cancer.

The researchers modified the CNTs by chemically binding them to polymer nanoparticles that held Interleukin-2, a cell signaling protein that encourages T cell growth and proliferation. Additionally, in order to mimic the body’s methods for stimulating cytotoxic T cell proliferation, the scientists seeded the surfaces of the CNTs with molecules that signaled which of the patient’s cells were foreign or toxic and should be attacked.

immunecellsg

A high-resolution, scanning electron microscope image of the carbon nanotube-polymer composite. The bundled CNTs appear as spaghetti-like structures.

Over the span of 14 days, the number of T cells cultured on the composite nanosystem expanded by a factor of 200, according to the researchers. Also, the method required 1,000 times less Interleukin-2 than conventional culture conditions. A magnet was used to separate the CNT-polymer composites from the T cells prior to injection.

“In repressing the body’s , tumors are like a castle with a moat around it,” says Tarek Fahmy, an associate professor of biomedical engineering and the study’s principal investigator. “Our method recruits significantly more cells to the battle and arms them to become superkillers.”

According to Fahmy, previous procedures for boosting antigen-specific T cells required exposing the patient’s harvested to other cells that stimulate activation and proliferation, a costly procedure that risks an adverse reaction to foreign cells. The Yale team’s use of magnetic CNT-polymer composites eliminates that risk by using simple, inexpensive magnets.

“Modulatory nanotechnologies can present unique opportunities for promising new therapies such as T cell immunotherapy,” says Tarek Fadel, lead author of the research and a Yale postdoc who is currently a staff scientist with the National Nanotechnology Coordination Office. “Engineers are progressing toward the design of the next generations of nanomaterials, allowing for further breakthrough in many fields, including cancer research.”

Explore further: New ‘doping’ method improves properties of carbon nanotubes

Researchers Unveil New Solar Cell: Carbon Nanotubes that Convert Sunlight into MORE Power


CNT Solar 1-researchersuA team of researchers with members from several research facilities in the U.S. has unveiled a new type of solar cell based on single walled carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs). In their paper published in the journal Nano Letters, the team claims they have overcome limitations with such technology resulting in a solar cell that is two times as good at converting sunlight into power as other SWCNT based cells.

Scientists would like to use carbon nanotubes in solar cells because it would mean lighter panels, lower costs and easier to make products. They’ve been hampered, however, by the limited amount of power that such cells are able to generate. In this new effort the research team claims they’ve overcome the limitations of prior generations of SWCNTs by adding more chiralities to the nanotubes. Chiralities describe the way atoms are arranged in their hexagonal patterns—different patterns allow for absorbing different portions of the . Most prior efforts have used just one. This new team has added what they call polychiral SWCNTs to their cells which allows for capturing much more of the solar spectrum—most notably, in the near infrared, which other don’t make use of at all.

CNT Solar 1-researchersu

The researchers also added an ability to control the interface between the underlying hole-transport layer and the active photovoltaic layer, allowing the electron and hole pair (excitons) to recombine more efficiently. Taken together the two improvements serve to allow for both higher current and voltage, resulting in record high power conversion efficiency. They report that The National Renewable Energy Laboratory has already certified (by verifying) the performance claimed by the team. But the team isn’t done just yet. They want to improve the even more and may do so by testing new materials not used in any other cell.

Scientists would like to use carbon nanotubes in solar cells because it would mean lighter panels, lower costs and easier to make products. They’ve been hampered, however, by the limited amount of power that such cells are able to generate. In this new effort the research team claims they’ve overcome the limitations of prior generations of SWCNTs by adding more chiralities to the nanotubes. Chiralities describe the way atoms are arranged in their hexagonal patterns—different patterns allow for absorbing different portions of the . Most prior efforts have used just one. This new team has added what they call polychiral SWCNTs to their cells which allows for capturing much more of the solar spectrum—most notably, in the near infrared, which other don’t make use of at all.

The researchers also added an ability to control the interface between the underlying hole-transport layer and the active photovoltaic layer, allowing the electron and hole pair (excitons) to recombine more efficiently. Taken together the two improvements serve to allow for both higher current and voltage, resulting in record high power conversion efficiency. They report that The National Renewable Energy Laboratory has already certified (by verifying) the performance claimed by the team. But the team isn’t done just yet. They want to improve the even more and may do so by testing new materials not used in any other cell.

While it could be awhile before a product is made for sale based on what the team has wrought, their research might cause others in the field to take notice, which could conceivably result in a resurgence of interest in carbon based in general—interest has lagged in recent years as researchers began to doubt they could make them both useful and profitable. Hopefully so, because it would mean less expensive (and lighter) that produce as much power as conventional panels or even more—leading perhaps to a major move from greenhouse gas emitting coal fired to something much cleaner.

Explore further: Inexpensive flexible fiber perovskite solar cells

More information: Polychiral Semiconducting Carbon Nanotube–Fullerene Solar Cells, Nano Lett., Article ASAP, DOI: 10.1021/nl5027452

Abstract
Single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs) have highly desirable attributes for solution-processable thin-film photovoltaics (TFPVs), such as broadband absorption, high carrier mobility, and environmental stability. However, previous TFPVs incorporating photoactive SWCNTs have utilized architectures that have limited current, voltage, and ultimately power conversion efficiency (PCE). Here, we report a solar cell geometry that maximizes photocurrent using polychiral SWCNTs while retaining high photovoltage, leading to record-high efficiency SWCNT–fullerene solar cells with average NREL certified and champion PCEs of 2.5% and 3.1%, respectively. Moreover, these cells show significant absorption in the near-infrared portion of the solar spectrum that is currently inaccessible by many leading TFPV technologies.

 

 

Carbon Nanotubes to Improve Coatings


image descriptionResin coatings are widely used in various sectors, like the aeronautical and automotive sectors, and in the structural components of aircraft and vehicles, in particular. Research by the UPV/EHU-University of the Basque Country has used carbon nanotubes to improve the properties of these coatings.

The research has been conducted within the POCO European project and seeks to come up with strategies to spread carbon nanotubes properly throughout different polymers. Carbon nanotubes improve the conductivity of these coatings, repair any scratches they may have and have excellent mechanical properties: they are tough and rigid and, what is more, conduct electricity. Epoxy resins, by contrast, are insulating materials. So if these nanotubes are added to them, the coatings are also turned into conductors. “However, to transmit or enhance these properties better, the carbon nanotubes must be properly spread throughout the material,” pointed out the UPV/EHU chemist Galder Kortaberria. But this advantage turns into a problem for the nanotubes because they tend to form clusters and often group together. So they cause problems when it comes to being expanded across a matrix. So for that very reason strategies or methods are needed to help the carbon nanotubes spread as much as possible within the polymer matrix.

image description

A new development: the use of copolymers

Different strategies are used to spread the carbon nanotubes across the polymer matrix. Firstly, electric and magnetic fields. Since carbon nanotubes are conductors, they position and align themselves in the desired direction when they come up against an electric field. What is more, the surface of these nanotubes can be changed by means of chemical treatments until a specific affinity or compatibility is achieved with the epoxy. Finally, this UPV/EHU research team has put forward a new strategy: the use of copolymers, in other words, blocks of two different polymers joined to each other by means of chemical bonds. In this case, the styrene-butadiene-styrene copolymer was used.

The first step was to chemically transform one of the blocks of the copolymer (the butadiene in this case), to make it compatible with the epoxy resin matrix. The other block, by contrast, was divided, but as it has a covalent bond with the butadiene, the division was on a nanometric scale and nanostructures were produced. “That way the carbon nanotubes disperse much better across the epoxy matrix, without forming clusters,” pointed out Kortaberria. In general, “all the coatings we prepared were more stable than the ones based on the epoxy alone. The most stable coating is the one that has 0.2% of carbon nanotubes,” he added. The research team saw that the coating properties could be improved by varying the quantities of copolymers and nanotubes, thermal stability and behaviour, in particular, when handling temperature, and that coatings suitable for industry could be designed.

“The spread of the nanotubes has improved considerably with the use of copolymers, and the properties of the epoxy resin-based coatings are maintained; in some cases they have even improved,” asserted Kortaberria. “All this makes it possible to produce coatings suitable for industry with enhanced characteristics,” he added.

Source: nanoBasque

Bringing Quantum Dots into Sharp Focus: QD Makers Scale Up to Meet Demand: $9.6B Display Market by 2023


QDOT images 3When Amazon.com Inc was developing its most advanced tablet to date, it asked a little-known company to solve a tricky problem with the screen: how to produce rich colors without draining battery life.

With the help of Milpitas, California-based Nanosys Inc, the Kindle Fire HDX 7 became one of Amazon’s best-selling tablets, winning critical acclaim for its vibrant display.

The answer? Quantum dots, which are semiconductor crystals 10,000 times finer than a human hair. They convert electrical energy into light and can be manipulated to produce precise colors.

“If you put a regular LCD display next to a quantum-dot LCD display, your grandmother can tell the difference,” said Jason Carlson, chief executive officer of QD Vision Inc, which makes quantum dots for Sony Corp’s Triluminos TV.

3D Printing dots-2

So explosive is demand for this technology that the few companies able to make quantum dots are struggling to keep up. Most are partnering with big display makers to set up industrial-scale manufacturing.

QD Vision and Nanosys are considering going public in the next year or so.

But while quantum dots are cheaper and consume less power than organic light-emitting diodes (OLED), their rival technology at the sharp end of the display business, they cannot yet be produced in the same quantities.

Quantum dots from most suppliers also contain cadmium, a toxic metal whose use is restricted in many countries.

A recent survey by DisplayMate Technologies rated Amazon’s Kindle Fire display as the clear winner in color reproduction against Apple Inc’s iPad mini and Google Inc’s Nexus 7. (bit.ly/1tn58ze)

Smartphone and TV consumers also like quantum dots for their low price. A 65-inch quantum-dot display TV would cost about $3,500, half as much as an OLED-display model of the same size, said Nutmeg Consultants founder Ken Werner.

Werner said quantum dots would retain that pricing advantage for at least three years.

For that reason, the OLED market cannot match the growth rates forecast for quantum dots.

Touch Display Research analyst Jennifer Colegrove said she expected a $9.6 billion market for quantum-dot displays and lighting components by 2023, compared with sales of just $75 million last year. (bit.ly/1mceJ7j)

By contrast, Transparency Market Research projects annual sales of OLED displays at $25.9 billion by 2018 versus $4.9 billion in 2012.

QUANTUM LEAP

Although quantum dots have been in development since the 1980s, they have only made the leap from laboratory to market in the last decade.

Nanosys shelved its plan to go public in 2004 for want of a viable product. Now the company says an initial public offering is its next step.

Lexington, Massachusetts-based QD Vision considers an IPO to be a possibility in 2015, Carlson said.

Two other quantum dot makers plan to shift their listings to larger exchanges, their CEOs told Reuters. Nanoco Group Plc will move to the London Stock Exchange from the bourse’s AIM, and San Marcos, Texas-based Quantum Materials Corp will go to the New York Stock Exchange or Nasdaq from over the counter.

To supply the volumes needed for large-scale manufacturing, QD Vision has partnered with LG Display Co Ltd, while Nanosys has a manufacturing partnership with a unit of 3M Co.

The shift from OLED technology toward quantum dots has been especially prevalent in TV, where OLED panels have proven expensive for large screens.

Sony and Panasonic Corp, Japan’s two largest consumer electronics companies, in December announced an end to their joint development of OLED TV screens.

PATENT POWER

Patents on the technology used to make quantum dots will make it tough for new entrants to unseat existing producers, said IHS Technology analyst Brian Bae.

Apple last year filed patents on quantum-dot technology, but they involve improving the brightness and quality of displays rather than manufacturing. (1.usa.gov/1rmlKlw)

Even cadmium, which the European Union and other countries restrict for use in electrical and electronic equipment, may not be much of a problem.

Oeko-Institut, an independent research institute hired by the EU, has recommended that quantum dots be exempt from wider legislation on hazardous substances until July 1, 2017, provided the cadmium content per square millimeter of display screen is below 0.2 micrograms.

That is above what is contained in displays with Nanosys and QD Vision’s technologies.

For Nanoco, however, the prospect of stricter regulation beyond 2017 might be an advantage. It is the only producer of cadmium-free quantum dots and has recently doubled capacity at its Runcorn plant in northwest England.

The company has a licensing deal with a unit of Dow Chemical Co, which holds exclusive worldwide rights for the sale of its quantum dots for use in electronic displays.

Nanoco CEO Michael Edelman said Dow Electronic Materials had “the engineering strength and muscle to scale into the volumes that are necessary – and quickly.”

A Research Team Looks to Nanotechnology to Fight Ebola Virus


Ebola 038d30d5-ae4d-4cbe-bfd8-5e73877e269d-1407938180974With the Ebola virus death toll now topping 1000 and even the much publicized experimental treatment ZMapp failing to save the life of a Spanish missionary priest who was treated with it, it is clear that scientists need to explore new ways of fighting the deadly disease. For researchers at Northeastern University in Boston, one possibility may be using nanotechnology.

“It has been very hard to develop a vaccine or treatment for Ebola or similar viruses because they mutate so quickly,” said Thomas Webster, the chair of Northeastern’s chemical engineering department, in a press release. “In nanotechnology we turned our attention to developing nanoparticles that could be attached chemically to the viruses and stop them from spreading.”

Webster, along with many researchers in the nanotechnology community, have been trying to use gold nanoparticles, in combination with near-infrared light, to kill cancer cells with heat. The hope is that the same approach could be used to kill the Ebola virus.

Ebola 038d30d5-ae4d-4cbe-bfd8-5e73877e269d-1407938180974

His team is currently developing methods to make cancer cells attract gold nanoparticles. Infrared light them heats up the particles, destroying the cancer cells. Healthy cells wouldn’t attract the nanoparticles and would not be affected. To magnify the heating effect, Webster increased the surface area of the gold nanoparticles by shaping them as stars. He dubbed them gold nanostars.

“The star has a lot more surface area, so it can heat up much faster than a sphere can,” Webster said in the release. “And that greater surface area allows it to attack more viruses once they adsorb to the particles.”

At his lab, he and his students are testing the nanostars on syn­thetic analogs that mimic viruses’ struc­tures. He said they’ve “realized the potential,” and although he’s hopeful, he doesn’t want to create false expectations, noting that using nanotechnology to fight the Ebola virus is still in its early days.

“There is obviously such a huge need right now for ways to treat Ebola and other viruses, and it’s up to us to study and look at new and creative ways that traditional medicine really can’t.”

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Ebola virus cancer gold nanoparticles infrared light nanomaterials nanoparticles