Researchers at Oregon State University reach Milestone in use of Nanoparticles to kill Cancer with Heat


Abstract:
Researchers at Oregon State University have developed an improved technique for using magnetic nanoclusters to kill hard-to-reach tumors.

 

Magnetic nanoparticles – tiny pieces of matter as small as one-billionth of a meter – have shown anti-cancer promise for tumors easily accessible by syringe, allowing the particles to be injected directly into the cancerous growth.

Once injected into the tumor, the nanoparticles are exposed to an alternating magnetic field, or AMF. This field causes the nanoparticles to reach temperatures in excess of 100 degrees Fahrenheit, which causes the cancer cells to die.

But for some cancer types such as prostate cancer, or the ovarian cancer used in the Oregon State study, direct injection is difficult. In those types of cases, a “systemic” delivery method – intravenous injection, or injection into the abdominal cavity – would be easier and more effective.

The challenge for researchers has been finding the right kind of nanoparticles – ones that, when administered systemically in clinically appropriate doses, accumulate in the tumor well enough to allow the AMF to heat cancer cells to death.

Olena Taratula and Oleh Taratula of the OSU College of Pharmacy tackled the problem by developing nanoclusters, multiatom collections of nanoparticles, with enhanced heating efficiency. The nanoclusters are hexagon-shaped iron oxide nanoparticles doped with cobalt and manganese and loaded into biodegradable nanocarriers.

Findings were published in ACS Nano.

“There had been many attempts to develop nanoparticles that could be administered systemically in safe doses and still allow for hot enough temperatures inside the tumor,” said Olena Taratula, associate professor of pharmaceutical sciences. “Our new nanoplatform is a milestone for treating difficult-to-access tumors with magnetic hyperthermia. This is a proof of concept, and the nanoclusters could potentially be optimized for even greater heating efficiency.”

The nanoclusters’ ability to reach therapeutically relevant temperatures in tumors following a single, low-dose IV injection opens the door to exploiting the full potential of magnetic hyperthermia in treating cancer, either by itself or with other therapies, she added.

“It’s already been shown that magnetic hyperthermia at moderate temperatures increases the susceptibility of cancer cells to chemotherapy, radiation and immunotherapy,” Taratula said.

The mouse model in this research involved animals receiving IV nanocluster injections after ovarian tumors had been grafted underneath their skin.

“To advance this technology, future studies need to use orthotopic animal models – models where deep-seated tumors are studied in the location they would actually occur in the body,” she said. “In addition, to minimize the heating of healthy tissue, current AMF systems need to be optimized, or new ones developed.”

The National Institutes of Health, the OSU College of Pharmacy and Najran University of Saudi Arabia supported this research.

Also collaborating were OSU electrical engineering professor Pallavi Dhagat, postdoctoral scholars Xiaoning Li and Canan Schumann of the College of Pharmacy, pharmacy graduate students Hassan Albarqi, Fahad Sabei and Abraham Moses, engineering graduate student Mikkel Hansen, and pre-pharmacy undergrads Tetiana Korzun and Leon Wong.

Copyright © Oregon State University

Advertisements

Army research may be used to treat cancer, Heal combat wounds


RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — Army research is the first to develop computational models using a microbiology procedure that may be used to improve novel cancer treatments and treat combat wounds.

Using the technique, known as electroporation, an electrical field is applied to cells in order to increase the permeability of the cell membrane, allowing chemicals, drugs, or DNA to be introduced into the cell.

For example, electro-chemotherapy is a cutting-edge cancer treatment that uses electroporation as a means to deliver chemotherapy into cancerous cells.

The research, funded by the U.S. Army and conducted by researchers at University of California, Santa Barbara and Université de Bordeaux, France, has developed a computational approach for parallel simulations that models the complex bioelectrical interaction at the tissue scale.

Previously, most research has been conducted on individual cells, and each cell behaves according to certain rules.

“When you consider a large number of them together, the aggregate exhibits novel coherent behaviors,” said Pouria Mistani, a researcher at UCSB. “It is this emergent phenomenon that is crucial for developing effective theories at the tissue-scale — novel behaviors that emerge from the coupling of many individual elements.”

This new research, published in the Journal of Computational Physics, is funded by the U.S. Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Army Research Lab, the Army’s corporate research laboratory known as ARL, through its Army Research Office.

“Mathematical research enables us to study the bioelectric effects of cells in order to develop new anti-cancer strategies,” said Dr. Joseph Myers, Army Research Office mathematical sciences division chief.

“This new research will enable more accurate and capable virtual experiments of the evolution and treatment of cells, cancerous or healthy, in response to a variety of candidate drugs.”

Researchers said a crucial element in making this possible is the development of advanced computational algorithms.

“There is quite a lot of mathematics that goes into the design of algorithms that can consider tens of thousands well-resolved cells,” said Frederic Gibou, a faculty member in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Computer Science at UCSB.

Another potential application is accelerating combat wound healing using electric pulsation.

“It’s an exciting, but mainly unexplored area that stems from a deeper discussion at the frontier of developmental biology, namely how electricity influences morphogenesis,” — or the biological process that causes an organism to develop its shape — Gibou said. “In wound healing, the goal is to externally manipulate electric cues to guide cells to grow faster in the wounded region and accelerate the healing process.”

The common factor among these applications is their bioelectric physical nature. In recent years, it has been established that the bioelectric nature of living organisms plays a pivotal role in the development of their form and growth.

To understand bioelectric phenomena, Gibou’s group considered computer experiments on multicellular spheroids in 3-D. Spheroids are aggregates of a few tens of thousands of cells that are used in biology because of their structural and functional similarity with tumors.

“We started from the phenomenological cell-scale model that was developed in the research group of our colleague, Clair Poignard, at the Université de Bordeaux, France, with whom we have collaborated for several years,” Gibou said.

This model, which describes the evolution of transmembrane potential on an isolated cell, has been compared and validated with the response of a single cell in experiments.

“From there, we developed the first computational framework that is able to consider a cell aggregate of tens of thousands of cells and to simulate their interactions,” he said. “The end goal is to develop an effective tissue-scale theory for electroporation.”

One of the main reasons for the absence of an effective theory at the tissue scale is the lack of data, according to Gibou and Mistani. Specifically, the missing data in the case of electroporation is the time evolution of the transmembrane potential of each individual cell in a tissue environment. Experiments are not able to make those measurements, they said.

“Currently, experimental limitations prevent the development of an effective tissue-level electroporation theory,” Mistani said. “Our work has developed a computational approach that can simulate the response of individual cells in a spheroid to an electric field as well as their mutual interactions.”

Each cell behaves according to certain rules. 

“But when you consider a large number of them together, the aggregate exhibits novel coherent behaviors,” Mistani said. “It is this emergent phenomenon that is crucial for developing effective theories at the tissue-scale — novel behaviors that emerge from the coupling of many individual elements.”

The effects of electroporation used in cancer treatment, for example, depend on many factors, such as the strength of the electric field, its pulse and frequency.

“This work could bring an effective theory that helps understand the tissue response to these parameters and thus optimize such treatments,” Mistani said. “Before our work, the largest existing simulations of cell aggregate electroporation only considered about one hundred cells in 3-D, or were limited to 2-D simulations. Those simulations either ignored the real 3-D nature of spheroids or considered too few cells for tissue-scale emergent behaviors to manifest.”

The researchers are currently mining this unique dataset to develop an effective tissue-scale theory of cell aggregate electroporation.

_______________________________________

The CCDC Army Research Laboratory (ARL) is an element of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command. As the Army’s corporate research laboratory, ARL discovers, innovates and transitions science and technology to ensure dominant strategic land power. Through collaboration across the command’s core technical competencies, CCDC leads in the discovery, development and delivery of the technology-based capabilities required to make Soldiers more effective to win our Nation’s wars and come home safely. CCDC is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Futures Command.

____________________________

Plastic Gets a Do-Over: Breakthrough Discovery Recycles Plastic From the Inside Out


A 2015 investigation that estimates there are between 4.8 trillion and 12.7 trillion pieces of plastic entering the ocean every year.

Scientists from Berkeley Lab have made a next-generation plastic that can be recycled again and again into new materials of any color, shape, or form.

Plastic pollution in the world’s oceans may have a $2.5 trillion impact, negatively affecting “almost all marine ecosystem services,” including areas such as fisheries, recreation and heritage. But a breakthrough from scientists at Berkeley Lab could be the solution the planet needs for this eye-opening problem – recyclable plastics.

The study, published in Nature Chemistry, details how the researchers were able to discover a new way to assemble the plastics and reuse them “into new materials of any color, shape, or form.”

Most plastics were never made to be recycled,” said lead author Peter Christensen, a postdoctoral researcher at Berkeley Lab’s Molecular Foundry, in the statement. “But we have discovered a new way to assemble plastics that takes recycling into consideration from a molecular perspective.”

Known as poly(diketoenamine), or PDK, the new type of plastic material could help stem the tide of plastics piling up at recycling plants, as the bonds PDK forms are able to be reversed via a simple acid bath, the researchers believe.

Poly(diketoenamine)s ‘click’ together from a wide variety of triketones and aromatic or aliphatic amines, yielding only water as a by-product,” the study’s abstract reads.

“Recovered monomers can be re-manufactured into the same polymer formulation, without loss of performance, as well as other polymer formulations with differentiated properties. The ease with which poly(diketoenamine)s can be manufactured, used, recycled and re-used—without losing value—points to new directions in designing sustainable polymers with minimal environmental impact.”

Unlike conventional plastics, the monomers of PDK plastic could be recovered and freed from any compounded additives simply by dunking the material in a highly acidic solution. (Credit: Peter Christensen et al./Berkeley Lab)

A byproduct of petroleum, plastic is inherently made up of molecules known as polymers that are composed of carbon-containing compounds known as monomers. Once chemicals are added to the plastic for use and consumption, the monomers bind with the chemicals and make it difficult to be processed at recycling plants, the researchers said.

Circular plastics and plastics upcycling are grand challenges,” said Brett Helms, a staff scientist in Berkeley Lab’s Molecular Foundry, in the statement. “We’ve already seen the impact of plastic waste leaking into our aquatic ecosystems, and this trend is likely to be exacerbated by the increasing amounts of plastics being manufactured and the downstream pressure it places on our municipal recycling infrastructure.”

Though PDK only exists in the lab currently (meaning products won’t be available for purchase for some time), the researchers are nonetheless excited by what they’ve discovered and the potential positive impact it could have.

“With PDKs, the immutable bonds of conventional plastics are replaced with reversible bonds that allow the plastic to be recycled more effectively,” Helms added. “We’re interested in the chemistry that redirects plastic lifecycles from linear to circular. We see an opportunity to make a difference for where there are no recycling options.”

Plastic recycling figures are trending down, making breakthroughs in recyclable plastic all the more important. According to the latest publicly available data, only 9.1 percent of the plastic created in the U.S. in 2015 was recycled, down from 9.5 percent in 2014, according to the EPA.

Last month, a separate study estimated that the pollution caused by plastics in the world’s oceans amounted to a $2.5 trillion problem that every country in the world has to deal with. The estimate did not take into account the impact on sectors of the global economy such as tourism, transport, fisheries and human health, the researchers wrote.

An ecosystem impact analysis demonstrates that there is global evidence of impact with medium to high frequency on all subjects, with a medium to high degree of irreversibility,” the study’s abstract reads, with the researchers adding that they looked at nearly 1,200 data points to come up with their conclusions.

Despite several efforts of countries around the world to reduce or stop the use of plastic altogether, the amount of plastic in the world’s oceans is increasing, and spreading across the planet.

A separate study, published in Nature on April 16, is the first study “to confirm a significant increase in open ocean plastics in recent decades,” going back nearly 60 years. Researchers found a plastic bag that had been snared on Ireland’s coast since 1965 and is possibly the first piece of plastic pollution ever found, according to the BBC.

Article Re-Posted from Chris Ciaccia of Fox Science News

China made an artificial star that’s 6 times (6X) as hot as our sun … And it could be the future of energy


  • China built a fusion reactor that reaches temperatures of 100 million degrees Celsius — that’s six times as hot as the sun.

  • While it was a milestone for EAST, we’re still a long way from generating sustainableenergy on Earth.

Imagine if we could replace fossil fuels with our very own stars. And no, we’re not talking about solar power: We’re talking nuclear fusion. And recent research is helping us get there.

Meet the Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak, or EAST. 

EAST is a fusion reactor based in Hefei, China. And it can now reach temperatures more than six times as hot as the sun. Let’s take a look at what’s happening inside. Fusion occurs when two lightweight atoms combine into a single, larger one, releasing energy in the process.

It sounds simple enough, but it’s not easy to pull off. Because those two atoms share a positive charge. And just like two opposing magnets, those positive atoms repel each other. 

Stars, like our sun, have a great way of overcoming this repulsion … their massive size, which creates a tremendous amount of pressure in their cores … So the atoms are forced closer together making them more likely to collide.

There’s just one problem: We don’t have the technology to recreate that kind of pressure on Earth. 

But luckily, there’s another way. You can also generate fusion with extreme temperatures. And that’s exactly what devices like EAST do. The higher the temperature, the faster the atoms move around and the more likely they are to collide. 

But it quickly becomes a balancing act. If the temperature is too hot, the atoms move too fastand zip passed each other. If it’s too cold, the atoms won’t move fast enough. So, the ideal temperature to generate fusion is around 100 million degrees Celsius. That’s more than 6 times as hot as our sun’s core. 

Only a few fusion experiments in the world have surpassed this milestone. And the latest one was EAST. It sustained nuclear fusion for about 10 seconds before shutting down. And while it was a breakthrough for EAST, it’s a long way from generating sustainable energy for the people of Earth. 

And that’s actually on purpose. EAST is a tiny reactor. At only a few meters across, it’s not meant to be a full-fledged power plant. It’s an experiment. And right now, its job is to help us design more effective fusion technology that could, one day, power entire cities. 

Like ITER, short for International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, it’s the world’s biggest fusion project to date. Thirty-five countries have poured billions of dollars into its construction. And it is designed to be the first fusion reactor to ever produce more fusion power than the power used to heat it up. 

You see, you need to pour a lot of energy into these machines to get them to work. This recent EAST test, for example, guzzled over 10 Megawatts of power. Enough to power 1,640 American homes for a year. And it didn’t yield even half that amount. Since the entire point of a power plant is to, well, produce power, it’s a pretty important issue to work out. 

But it’s worth the effort. Why? Well for one thing, fusion reactors would produce practically no radioactive waste compared to the kind of reaction we see in today’s nuclear fission power plants. But even better. Fusion reactors can run on seawater— a renewable, sustainable resource. 

For perspective, the amount of water just on the top inch of Lake Erie is enough to produce more power than all the fossil fuels left on the planet. And unlike other energy sources, it doesn’t need the sun to shine or the wind to blow. 

In a time of dwindling resources and worsening climate change, we could sure use it.

South Korea and Sweden are the most innovative countries in the world – Israel Becoming ‘Tech Titan’


” … These are the most innovative countries in the world, South Korea, Sweden and Singapore top the list … “Image: REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

South Korea and Sweden are the most innovative countries in the world, according to a league table covering everything from the concentration of tech companies to the number of science and engineering graduates.

The index on innovative countries highlights South Korea’s position as the economy whose companies filed the most patents in 2017. 

Bloomberg, which compiles the index based on data from sources including the World Bank, IMF and OECD, credits South Korea’s top ranking to Samsung. 

The electronics giant is South Korea’s most valuable company and has received more US patents than any company other than IBM since the start of the millennium. This innovation trickles down the supply chain and throughout South Korea’s economy.

Sweden in second place is fast gaining a reputation as Europe’s tech start-up capital.

The Scandinavian country is home to Europe’s largest tech companies and its capital is second only to Silicon Valley when it comes to the number of “unicorns” – billion-dollar tech companies – that it produces per capita.

Education hinders the US

The US dropped out of the top 10 in the 2018 Bloomberg Innovation Index, for the first time in the six years the gauge has been compiled. 

Bloomberg attributed its fall to 11th place from ninth last year largely to an eight-spot slump in the rating of its tertiary education, which includes an assessment of the share of new science and engineering graduates in the labour force.

The US is now ranked 43 out of 50 nations for “tertiary efficiency”. Singapore and Iran take the top two spots.

The US’ ranking marks another setback for its higher education sector’s global standing in recent months: in September it was revealed neither of the world’s top two universities were considered to be American. Those honours went to the UK’s Oxford and Cambridge universities respectively.

In addition to the US’ education slump in the innovation index, Bloomberg claims the country also lost ground when it came to value-added manufacturing. The country is now ranked in 23rd place, while Ireland and South Korea take the top two spots.

Despite these setbacks, the Bloomberg Innovation Index still ranks the US as number 1 when it comes to its density of tech companies.

The US is also second only to South Korea for patent activity.

These rankings may explain the disparity between Bloomberg’s list of innovative countries and the World Economic Forum’s own list of the 10 most innovative economies.

Image: WEF

Under this ranking, compiled as part of The Global Competitiveness Report 2017-2018, the US is listed as the second most innovative country in the world after Switzerland.

The US’ inclusion in this league table, and South Korea’s exclusion, are the two most notable differences between the different rankings.

Other than these nations, the majority of countries included in the top 10s are the same in both lists.

Tech titan Israel

One nation to feature prominently in both innovation rankings is Israel.

Taking third spot in the Global Competitiveness Report’s innovation league table, Israel is ranked 10th best country in the world for innovation overall by Bloomberg.

However, its index also ranks Israel as number 1 for two categories of innovation: R&D intensity and concentration of researchers.

Israel’s talent for research and development is illustrated by some of the major tech innovations to come out of the country.

These include the USB flash drive, the first Intel PC processor and Google’s Suggest function, to name just three.

Despite being smaller than the US state of New Jersey with fewer people, Israel punches well above its weight on the global tech stage.

It has about 4000 startups, and raises venture capital per capita at two-and-a-half times the rate of the US and 30 times that of Europe.

When it comes to being a world leader at innovation, it may simply be the case that you get out what you put in: according to OECD figures, Israel spends more money on research and development as a proportion of its economy than any other country – 4.3% of GDP against second-placed Korea’s 4.2%. 

Switzerland is in third place spending 3.4% of its GDP on R&D, while Sweden spends 3.3%. The US spends just 2.8%.

Lithium vs Hydrogen – EV’s vs Fuel Cells – A New Perspective of Mutual Evolution


Electric vehicle sales are pumping, with an ever-expanding network of charging stations around the world facilitating the transition from gas-guzzling automobiles, to sleek and technologically adept carbon-friendly alternatives.

With that in mind, the community of car and energy enthusiasts still continue to open up the old ‘Who would win in a fight, lithium vs hydrogen fuel cell technology?’.

 

Are hydrogen fuel cell cars doomed?

Imagine being the disgruntled owner of a hydrogen-powered car, only for lithium batteries to completely take the reigns of the industry and in effect, make your vehicle obsolete. It’s not really that wild of a notion, it’s far closer to reality than you may realize, as most electric car vehicle manufacturers consider lithium to be the battery of choice, and a more progressive development tool.

Any rechargeable device in your home, like your portable battery, your camera or even your iPhone, is using lithium. It’s clearly felt in the tech world that this is the path of least resistance for the future, but what does that mean for hydrogen fuel cell technology?

In 2017, with BMW announcing a 75% increase in BEV (Battery Electric Vehicles) sales, Hyundai came out and announced that they were going to focus almost entirely on lithium batteries. They’re not abandoning their fuel cell programme, but their next line of 10 electric vehicles will feature only 2 hydrogen options. Hyundai Executive VP Lee Kwang-guk stated, “We’re strengthening our eco-friendly car strategy, centering on electric vehicles”.

Is it likely that other manufacturers will follow suit? Well, with Tesla’s Elon Musk personally stating a preference for lithium (he called hydrogen fuel ‘incredibly dumb’), and both Toyota and Honda indicating that they will pour R&D funds into this type of battery (despite earlier hesitation), the answer seems to be ‘well, we already have’.

READ MORE:

Toyota vs Tesla – Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicles vs Electric Cars

 (Article Continued Below)

Do ‘refueling’ and ‘recharging’ stations hold the key to success?

Did you know that as of May 2017 there were only 35 hydrogen refueling stations in the entire US, with 30 of those in California? Compared to the 16,000 electric vehicle refueling stations already available in the US, with more on the way, it would seem that the logical EV purchaser would opt for a car with a lithium battery. In China, there are already more than 215,000 electric charging stations, with over 600,000 more in planning to make the East Asian nation’s road system more accommodating to EVs.

On January 30th, 2018, REQUEST MORE INFO, invested $5m into ‘FreeWire Technologies’, a manufacturer of rapid-charging systems for EVs. The plan is to install these charging systems in their gas stations all over the UK, though they did not disclose how many. So, even on the other side of the Atlantic, building a network of charging systems is a high priority.

With ‘Range Anxiety’ (the fear that your battery will run out of juice before the next charging point) being a common concern for EV owners, the noticeably growing network of refueling stations, including those with ‘fast charge’ options, are seeming to settle down the crowd of anxious early adopters.

 

Will the market dictate the winner in the lithium vs hydrogen car battery ‘war’?

If we look at the effects of supply and demand, the early clarity of lithium batteries as the battery of choice for alternative energy vehicles meant that there were a great time and cause for development. As a result, between 2010 and 2016, lithium battery production costs reduced by 73%.

If this trajectory continues, price parity is a when, not an if, and that when could well be encouraging you to take a trip down to your local EV dealership for an upgrade.

Demand for EVs instead of hydrogen fuel cell technology means that some of the world’s largest vehicle manufacturers are showing a strong lean towards lithium batteries.

Hyundai, Honda, and VW are all putting hydrogen on the back burner. And whilst market demand for hydrogen is considerably lower, Toyota remains keen on fighting this battle, which they have been researching for around 25 years.

Their theory that hydrogen and lithium battery powered vehicles must be developed ‘at the same speed’ is a dogged one.

You could say their self-belief was completely rewarded by their faith in the Prius, with over 5 million global sales and comfortable status as the top-selling car (ever) in Japan, so there will be many who tune in to the Toyota line of thinking and overlook the market sentiment.

Price will always play a role in purchasing decisions, and with scalable cost reduction methods not yet visible or available for hydrogen fuel cell technology, it looks like lithium is going to be the battery that opens wallets.

 

Can lithium and hydrogen car batteries coexist?

Sure, they can co-exist, but ultimately one technology is going to come close to a monopoly while the other becomes a collector’s item, a novelty, just a blip in technological history. That’s just one theory of course. 

Another theory is that the pockets in which hydrogen fuel cell vehicles already exist and are somewhat popular, like Japan and California, will use their powerful economies to almost force their success.

Why would they do this? Because the vehicles are far more expensive than EVs by comparison, they had to start in wealthy regions, install fuelling stations and slowly spread out into other affluent neighborhoods.

It’s a long game that relies heavily on wealthy regions opting to choose the expensive inconvenience, a feat which could arguably be achieved simply by creating the most visually compelling vehicles rather than the most efficient. Style over substance, for lack of a better phrase.

Take a look! See how Lithium powers the world…

 

Which will stand the test of time?

Looking at this from a scientific perspective, one might say ‘Well, lithium is limited, whereas hydrogen is the most abundant gas in our atmosphere’, and one would be correct. However, science doesn’t always simplify things. Hydrogen is really hard and inefficient to capture, and therein lies a huge obstacle.

Hydrogen fuel is hard to make and distribute, too, with a very high refill cost. The final kick in the teeth is that the technology required to capture, make and distribute all of that hydrogen is not very good for the environment, and is arguably no ‘cleaner’ than gasoline. That same technology uses more electricity in the hydrogen-creation process than is currently needed to recharge lithium batteries, and therein lies the answer to this whole debate, right?

We aren’t saying lithium batteries will be around forever, but they’re more adaptable, useful, scalable and affordable as a technology, right now.

By the time hydrogen fuel cell technology is affordable to the average consumer, we will hopefully have found a true clean energy source.

 

Conclusion: Will the lithium vs hydrogen debate ever be over?

Lithium is this, hydrogen is that, EVs are this and that, HFCs are that and this. The cycle will perpetuate until it becomes clear which is the definitive solution, at least that’s the belief of Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who said ‘There’s no need for us to have this debate. I’ve said my piece on this, it will be super obvious as time goes by.’

To be fair though, this quote from George W Bush would beg to differ, when he is quoted as saying ‘Fuel cells will power cars with little or no waste at all. We happen to believe that fuel cell cars are the wave of the future; that fuel cells offer incredible opportunity’. Well, George, you may have been right back in 2003, but this is 2018.

Article Provided By

Mike is Chief Operating Officer of Dubuc Motors, a startup dedicated to the commercialization of electric vehicles targeting niche markets within the automotive industry.

New Cancer Research – Converting Cancer Cells to Fat Cells to Stop Cancer’s Spread


A method for fooling breast cancer cells into fat cells has been discovered by researchers from the University of Basel.

The team were able to transform EMT-derived breast cancer cells into fat cells in a mouse model of the disease – preventing the formation of metastases. The proof-of-concept study was published in the journal Cancer Cell. 

Malignant cells can rapidly respond and adapt to changing microenvironmental conditions, by reactivating a cellular process called epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT), enabling them to alter their molecular properties and transdifferentiate into a different type of cell (cellular plasticity).

Senior author of the study Gerhard Christofori, professor of biochemistry at the University of Basel, commented in a recent press release: “The breast cancer cells that underwent an EMT not only differentiated into fat cells, but also completely stopped proliferating.”

“As far as we can tell from long-term culture experiments, the cancer cells-turned-fat cells remain fat cells and do not revert back to breast cancer cells,” he explained.

Epithelial-mesenchymal transition and cancer 

Cancer cells can exploit EMT – a process that is usually associated with the development of organs during embryogenesis – in order to migrate away from the primary tumor and form secondary metastases. Cellular plasticity is linked to cancer survival, invasion, tumor heterogeneity and resistance to both chemo and targeted therapies. In addition, EMT and the inverse process termed mesenchymal-epithelial transition (MET) both play a role in a cancer cell’s ability to metastasize.

Using mouse models of both murine and human breast cancer the team investigated whether they could therapeutically target cancer cells during the process of EMT – whilst the cells are in a highly plastic state. When the mice were administered Rosiglitazone in combination with MEK inhibitors it provoked the transformation of the cancer cells into post-mitotic and functional adipocytes (fat cells). In addition, primary tumor growth was suppressed and metastasis was prevented. 

Cancer cells marked in green and a fat cell marked in red on the surface of a tumor (left). After treatment (right), three former cancer cells have been converted into fat cells. The combined marking in green and red causes them to appear dark yellow. Credit: University of Basel, Department of Biomedicine

Christofori highlights the two major findings in the study: 

“Firstly, we demonstrate that breast cancer cells that undergo an EMT and thus become malignant, metastatic and therapy-resistant, exhibit a high degree of stemness, also referred to as plasticity. It is thus possible to convert these malignant cells into other cell types, as shown here by a conversion to adipocytes.”

“Secondly, the conversion of malignant breast cancer cells into adipocytes not only changes their differentiation status but also represses their invasive properties and thus metastasis formation and their proliferation. Note that adipocytes do not proliferate anymore, they are called ‘post-mitotic’, hence the therapeutic effect.”

Since both drugs used in the preclinical study were FDA-approved the team are hopeful that it may be possible to translate this therapeutic approach to the clinic. 

“Since in patients this approach could only be tested in combination with conventional chemotherapy, the next steps will be to assess in mouse models of breast cancer whether and how this trans-differentiation therapy approach synergizes with conventional chemotherapy. In addition, we will test whether the approach is also applicable to other cancer types. These studies will be continued in our laboratories in the near future.”

Journal Reference: Ronen et al. Gain Fat–Lose Metastasis: Converting Invasive Breast Cancer Cells into Adipocytes Inhibits Cancer Metastasis. Cancer Cell. (2019). Available at: https://www.cell.com/cancer-cell/fulltext/S1535-6108(18)30573-7 

Gerhard Christofori was speaking to Laura Elizabeth Lansdowne, Science Writer for Technology Networks

LLNL Researchers Develop New Class of 3D PRINTED METAMATERIALS that Strengthen “On Demand” – Applications for armor that responds on impact; car seats that reduce whiplash and NextGen Neck braces


Combining 3D printing with a magnetic ink injection, researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) have created a new class of metamaterial – engineered with behaviors outside their nature.

Like 4D printed objects, LLNL’s 3D printed lattices rely on the fourth element of time to become something “other” than their natural resting state. However, in contrast to its relatives, that often transform in response to temperatures or water, the change in LLNL’s new structures is almost instantaneous – they stiffen when a magnetic field is applied.

This unique class is the next step forward in metamaterials that can be tuned “on-the-fly” to achieve desired properties, and applied to make intuitive objects: e.g. armor that responds on impact; car seats that reduce whiplash; and next generation neck braces.

A 3D printed lattice injected with magnetic fluid. Image via Science Advances, supplementary materials/LLNL

A 3D printed lattice injected with magnetic fluid. Image via Science Advances, supplementary materials/LLNL

Harnessing the power of lattices

In the first stage of this development, the LLNL team performed a digital simulation of their metamaterial lattices. By doing so, the team could determine how the shape would respond to a magnetic field, and therefore optimize its structure for desired mechanical properties.

Mark Messner, former LLNL researcher and co-author of a study presenting the new metamaterial, explains, “The design space of possible lattice structures is huge, so the model and the optimization process helped us choose likely structures with favorable properties before [it was] printed, filled and tested the actual specimens, which is a lengthy process.”

After optimization, experimental lattices were 3D printed using a method of Large Area Projection Microstereolithography (LAPµSL). With microscale precision, LAPµSL enabled the team to create thin walls that could support injected fluid.

Lead author Julie Jackson Mancini explains, “In this paper we really wanted to focus on the new concept of metamaterials with tunable properties, and even though it’s a little more of a manual fabrication process,” i.e. with the injection of material, “it still highlights what can be done, and that’s what I think is really exciting.”

Materials with “on-the-fly” tunability 

The ink inside the LLNL lattice is a magnetorheological fluid, containing minute magnetic particles.

Like a “dancing” iron filing experiment, when a magnetic field is applied to this lattice, the particles realign, making the structure stiff and supportive of added weight.

This newfound strength is demonstrated through a test in which a 10g weight is added to the top of the lattice. As the magnet beneath the lattice is moved away, the structure gradually gives way, and eventually drops the weight.

Demonstration showing a 3D printing magnetic metamaterial lattice, and its response to the removal of a magnetic field. Image via Science Advance, supplementary materials/LLNL

Demonstration showing a 3D printing magnetic metamaterial lattice, and its response to the removal of a magnetic field. Image via Science Advance, supplementary materials/LLNL

“What’s really important,” explains Mancini, “is it’s not just an on and off response, by adjusting the magnetic field strength applied we can get a wide range of mechanical properties,”

“THE IDEA OF ON-THE-FLY, REMOTE TUNABILITY OPENS THE DOOR TO A LOT OF APPLICATIONS.”

Future development

The next steps for the LLNL metamaterial team is to develop a means of integrating the ink-injection stage of lattice fabrication, and to increase the size of objects that can be 3D printed.

Results of the lab’s most recent study, “Field responsive mechanical metamaterials” are published online in Science Advances journal. It’s co-authors are listed as Julie A. JacksonMark C. MessnerNikola A. Dudukovic, William L. SmithLogan BekkerBryan MoranAlexandra M. GolobicAndrew J. PascallEric B. DuossKenneth J. Loh, and Christopher M. Spadaccini.

Nominate 3D Printing Research Team of the Year and more now for the 2019 3D Printing Industry Awards.

Researchers Develop a universal DNA Nano-signature for early cancer detection – University of Queensland


Killer T cells surround cancer cell. Credit: NIH

Researchers from the University of Queensland’s Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN) have discovered a unique nano-scaled DNA signature that appears to be common to all cancers.

Based on this discovery, the team has developed a  that enables  to be quickly and easily detected from any tissue type, e.g. blood or biopsy.

The study, which was supported by a grant from the National Breast Cancer Foundation and is published in the journal Nature Communications, reveals new insight about how epigenetic reprogramming in cancer regulates the physical and chemical properties of DNA and could lead to an entirely new approach to point-of-care diagnostics.

“Because cancer is an extremely complicated and variable disease, it has been difficult to find a simple signature common to all cancers, yet distinct from healthy ,” explains AIBN researcher Dr. Abu Sina.

To address this, Dr. Sina and Dr. Laura Carrascosa, who are working with Professor Matt Trau at AIBN, focussed on something called circulating free DNA.

Like healthy cells,  are always in the process of dying and renewing. When they die, they essentially explode and release their cargo, including DNA, which then circulates.

“There’s been a big hunt to find whether there is some distinct DNA signature that is just in the cancer and not in the rest of the body,” says Dr. Carrascosa.

So they examined epigenetic patterns on the genomes of cancer cells and healthy cells. In other words, they looked for patterns of molecules, called methyl groups, which decorate the DNA. These methyl groups are important to cell function because they serve as signals that control which genes are turned on and off at any given time.

In healthy cells, these methyl groups are spread out across the genome. However, the AIBN team discovered that the genome of a cancer cell is essentially barren except for intense clusters of methyl groups at very specific locations.

This unique signature—which they dubbed the cancer “methylscape”, for methylation landscape—appeared in every type of breast cancer they examined and appeared in other forms of cancer, too, including prostate cancer, colorectal cancer and lymphoma.

“Virtually every piece of cancerous DNA we examined had this highly predictable pattern,” says Professor Trau.

He says that if you think of a cell as a hard-drive, then the new findings suggest that cancer needs certain genetic programmes or apps in order to run.

“It seems to be a general feature for all cancer,” he says. “It’s a startling discovery.”

They also discovered that, when placed in solution, those intense clusters of  cause cancer DNA fragments to fold up into three-dimensional nanostructures that really like to stick to gold.

Taking advantage of this, the researchers designed an assay which uses gold nanoparticles that instantly change colour depending on whether or not these 3-D nanostructures of cancer DNA are present.

“This happens in one drop of fluid,” says Trau. “You can detect it by eye, it’s as simple as that.”

The technology has also been adapted for electrochemical systems, which allows inexpensive and portable detection that could eventually be performed using a mobile phone.

So far they’ve tested the new technology on 200 samples across different types of human cancers, and . In some cases, the accuracy of cancer detection runs as high as 90%.

“It works for tissue derived genomic DNA and blood derived circulating free DNA,” says Sina. “This new discovery could be a game-changer in the field of point of care cancer diagnostics.” It’s not perfect yet, but it’s a promising start and will only get better with time, says the team.

“We certainly don’t know yet whether it’s the Holy Grail or not for all cancer diagnostics,” says Trau, “but it looks really interesting as an incredibly simple universal marker of cancer, and as a very accessible and inexpensive technology that does not require complicated lab based equipment like DNA sequencing.”

More information: Abu Ali Ibn Sina et al, Epigenetically reprogrammed methylation landscape drives the DNA self-assembly and serves as a universal cancer biomarker, Nature Communications(2018).  DOI: 10.1038/s41467-018-07214-w

Provided by University of Queensland

Explore further: New cancer monitoring technology worth its weight in gold

RMIT – Study unlocks full potential of graphene ‘supermaterial’


Drs. Esrafilzadeh and Jalili working on 3D-printed graphene mesh in the lab.
Credit: RMIT University

New research reveals why the “supermaterial” graphene has not transformed electronics as promised, and shows how to double its performance and finally harness its extraordinary potential.

Graphene is the strongest material ever tested. It’s also flexible, transparent and conducts heat and electricity 10 times better than copper.

After graphene research won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 2010 it was hailed as a transformative material for flexible electronics, more powerful computer chips and solar panels, water filters and bio-sensors. But performance has been mixed and industry adoption slow.

Now a study published in Nature Communications identifies silicon contamination as the root cause of disappointing results and details how to produce higher performing, pure graphene.

The RMIT University team led by Dr Dorna Esrafilzadeh and Dr Rouhollah Ali Jalili inspected commercially-available graphene samples, atom by atom, with a state-of-art scanning transition electron microscope.

“We found high levels of silicon contamination in commercially available graphene, with massive impacts on the material’s performance,” Esrafilzadeh said.

Testing showed that silicon present in natural graphite, the raw material used to make graphene, was not being fully removed when processed.

“We believe this contamination is at the heart of many seemingly inconsistent reports on the properties of graphene and perhaps many other atomically thin two-dimensional (2D) materials ,” Esrafilzadeh said.

Graphene has not become the next big thing because of silicon impurities holding it back, RMIT researchers have said.

Graphene was billed as being transformative, but has so far failed to make a significant commercial impact, as have some similar 2D nanomaterials. Now we know why it has not been performing as promised, and what needs to be done to harness its full potential.”

The testing not only identified these impurities but also demonstrated the major influence they have on performance, with contaminated material performing up to 50% worse when tested as electrodes.

“This level of inconsistency may have stymied the emergence of major industry applications for graphene-based systems.

But it’s also preventing the development of regulatory frameworks governing the implementation of such layered nanomaterials, which are destined to become the backbone of next-generation devices,” she said.

The two-dimensional property of graphene sheeting, which is only one atom thick, makes it ideal for electricity storage and new sensor technologies that rely on high surface area.

This study reveals how that 2D property is also graphene’s Achilles’ heel, by making it so vulnerable to surface contamination, and underscores how important high purity graphite is for the production of more pure graphene.

Using pure graphene, researchers demonstrated how the material performed extraordinarily well when used to build a supercapacitator, a kind of super battery.

When tested, the device’s capacity to hold electrical charge was massive. In fact, it was the biggest capacity so far recorded for graphene and within sight of the material’s predicted theoretical capacity.

In collaboration with RMIT’s Centre for Advanced Materials and Industrial Chemistry, the team then used pure graphene to build a versatile humidity sensor with the highest sensitivity and the lowest limit of detection ever reported.

These findings constitute a vital milestone for the complete understanding of atomically thin two-dimensional materials and their successful integration within high performance commercial devices.

“We hope this research will help to unlock the exciting potential of these materials.”

Story Source:

Materials provided by RMIT University. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Rouhollah Jalili, Dorna Esrafilzadeh, Seyed Hamed Aboutalebi, Ylias M. Sabri, Ahmad E. Kandjani, Suresh K. Bhargava, Enrico Della Gaspera, Thomas R. Gengenbach, Ashley Walker, Yunfeng Chao, Caiyun Wang, Hossein Alimadadi, David R. G. Mitchell, David L. Officer, Douglas R. MacFarlane, Gordon G. Wallace. Silicon as a ubiquitous contaminant in graphene derivatives with significant impact on device performance. Nature Communications, 2018; 9 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41467-018-07396-3
%d bloggers like this: