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Nanomedicine and Pregnancy

Nanotechnology, when specifically applied to the field of medicine, qualifies as nanomedicine. The term is pretty broad and encompasses several medical applications of nanomaterials as well as nanoelectronic biosensors. A nanometer is the millionth part of a millimeter, and it is almost impossible for human beings to even imagine working with materials with such dimensions. However, the medicine fraternity across the globe has succeeded in performing research of much worth, working with nanomaterials and nanoelectronic biosensors. The US National Institute of Health is the leading body funding research and development in nanomedicine. The funding of a five year plan in 2005, aimed at setting four nanomedicine centers in the country is still counted among the most noted efforts made by a body to promote progress in nanomedicine.

Pregnancy and nanomedicine have had some interesting associations in the recent past, with nanotechnology playing a part in some pregnancy tests. Such techniques are not widely used, and are still undergoing refinements. United States and Canada are two counties where the techniques involving nanoparticles to conduct pregnancy tests have been employed with a fair degree of reliability and success. Gold nanoparticles have been used on the test sticks of some home pregnancy kits to conduct tests. Urine of pregnant women has its characteristic composition with the presence of certain hormones which are most active when a woman is 10 weeks pregnant. These hormones change the environment of the gold nanoparticles and cause observable differences in their behavior. Depending upon the toxicity of the gold nanoparticles and their environmental interactions, there are certain expected results as regards the agglomeration, or the clumping together, of these nanoparticles. The cluster formation decides the light absorbed by the cluster, and this characteristic is measurable.

In case of pregnant women, the gold nanoparticles bind to each hormone, and these clusters present different colors from the unclustered gold nanoparticles. If the size of the cluster so formed is optimal, the corresponding light absorbance changes. With the knowledge of how the absorbed light changes with cluster size, scientists and medical experts can design biosensors in a way so that the optimal sized clusters result. Of course, the suitability of the nanoparticles for use in biosensors is another important parameter kept in mind by researchers. The method of measuring cluster size distribution and the light absorption measurements following that has been devised by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Ensuing research is bound to make the processes more refined and this would ultimately lead to the development of highly conclusive pregnancy tests. However, there is another side to the coin as well. New technologies come with their downsides, and there is every reason to be careful against the possibilities of nanoparticles leading to undesired side effects in the human body. Researchers and scientists dealing with nanomedicine are faced with some pressing issues, primarily those concerning toxicity and the adverse impact on the environment resulting from the human interaction with nanoscale materials.

Nanoparticles guide genes through the bloodstream

Scientists from University of Bonn in Germany have designed a technique that allows them to repair damaged arteries’ tissue. The technique is based on sending genes and healthy cells through the bloodstream to the place that needs to be repaired.
Earlier, the “problem” was that it was unknown what quantity of healthy cells to send in order to repair the tissue. Small magnetic nanoparticles which are situated on the planted gene or on the planted cell can with the aid of an external magnetic field be specifically directed to the location of the damage.

German researchers have discovered that the gene-based transfer is way more successful than non-gene-based one. Magnetic nanoparticles can support or even enable gene transfer under clinically relevant experimental conditions.

Adopted from materials provided by ptb.de

Nanoparticles can activate neurons wirelessly?

When the brain tissue gets injured, doctors tend to implant electrodes in the brain. These electrodes’ job is to send electric signals and help the recovery process. The disadvantage of this process is that the electrodes need to be implanted surgically. However, it seems that all this will be possible to do wirelessly.

Researchers from Cleveland, Ohio have developed a new technique which might allow doctors to activate neurons wirelessly using microscopic beads and light. This method has been already tried on slices of rat brain tissue — scientists first placed tiny beads (about 10nm wide). Of course, beads are made of semiconductors which get electrically excited when light shines on them.
“Essentially, these are the same particles used to sensitize solar cells,” said Clemens Burda, one of the researchers. The illuminated particles produce an electric field or current that activates the neurons, which respond with their own measurable electrical signals. Scientists that worked on this project attached the nanoparticles to a tiny glass micropipette to make it easier to position the particles.

This technique is of huge importance, because it’s got many advantages over the methods that are currently used. Surgery, large electrodes and wires in this process could be history.
“It’s very invasive and the wires themselves are difficult to deal with,” said Ben Strowbridge, one of the researchers. “There’s really no other technology that can do that with this degree of control or spatial resolution.”

This method has to go through numerous tests before it can actually be applied to humans, but it looks promising so far.

The details are published in the journal Angewandte Chemie.

Relation between nanotechnology and food

Nanotechnology is everywhere around us, although we aren’t aware of it all the time. Many companies (cosmetics, food) use nanotechnology standards in order to improve their products, but don’t really talk publicly about it.

Nanotechnology is widely used in the food industry. If we put aside the “possible toxicity of nanoparticles” factor, nanotechnology standards can offer significant benefits to the society. Here is ten of them.

1. Bacteria identification and elimination — Scientists have developed a method which allows nano-carbohydrate particles to bind with bacteria, thus detecting and eliminating them.

2. Enhance the flavor — Our tongue’s sensors detect the taste of what we consume. Now, scientists have developed a way to trick the tongue by bitter blockers or sweet and salty enhancers.

3. Set the texture — Nanocrystals and lipids significantly improve food spreadability and stability for better low-fat foods.

4. Track, trace and protect — Scientists from California have created nanobarcodes from nanoparticles that contain silver and gold stripes, thus improving tagging individual products and tracing outbreaks.

5. Reducing pesticides — By using a cloth saturated with nanofibers slowly releases pesticides, thus eliminating the need for additional spraying and reducing chemical leakage into the water supply.

6. Green packaging — In order to create antimicrobial and biodegradable nanofibers, scientists have used lobster shells and organic corn.

7. Improved nutrients delivery — In order to significantly improve the solubility of vitamins, healthy omega oils and antioxidants, scientists have nano-encapsulated them.

8. Enhancing food storage — In order to keep the food fresh, scientists have created Nano-barriers which are able to keep the oxygen “away”.

9. “Kill microbes” packaging — Scientists have developed food films that are made out of nano particles of zinc or calcium are able to kill bacteria.

10. Sense the contamination — Scientists developed a device which allows us to detect a E. coli by just a laser.

Adapted from materials found at Discovery.com