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Archive for October 3rd, 2006|Daily archive page

New Web tool may speed drug discovery

In Health on October 3, 2006 at 9:24 pm

By Gareth Cook, Globe Staff | September 29, 2006

Local scientists have created what they hope will become the Google of drug discovery: a free, Web-based search engine that quickly finds potential new compounds to treat particular diseases.
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As the website went live yesterday, the team released three papers in top scientific journals, demonstrating the technique’s promise. In initial testing, the search engine identified a potential leukemia drug. A clinical trial for that drug, which is already approved for another use, is likely to begin in the next few months — a testament to the speed of the new approach.The new tool, dubbed the “connectivity map,” works by quickly matching drugs and diseases that have opposite effects on some of the genes inside a human cell — the set of instructions that, when turned on, tell the cell what to do. A match would indicate that giving the drug might reverse the effects of the disease, turning off genes the disease turns on, and vice versa.

The utility of the database needs to be verified with a larger study, but scientists said it promises to accelerate drug discovery at a time when developing a new drug is frustratingly slow and expensive.

“The industry is always going to be enthusiastic about any tool that helps in the discovery process, and this looks like a very exciting tool that has real potential,” said Janice Reichert , a senior research fellow at the Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development .
Pop-up Speeding the search for cures

Scientists at the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, which created the web site and search engine, said they have already begun work to expand the database to include more than 10 times as many compounds. And, they said, they were hopeful that other laboratories would eventually join in, creating a massive, cooperative venture similar to the Human Genome Project, allowing scientists from around the world to efficiently aggregate their genetic data and insights.

“It is a major intellectual and practical tool,” said Eric S. Lander, director of the Broad Institute. “I imagine a world, five years from now, where everyone who is working on a potential drug will, as the first thing they do, quickly look it up” to see what diseases it might work on.

The work, published by the journals Science and Cancer Cell, suggests that it is possible to dramatically simplify some aspects of biology, and thus speed the search for cures, according to Dr. Todd R. Golub , who led the research at the Broad Institute and is also a cancer researcher at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Children’s Hospital Boston. Different types of cells typically respond slightly differently to drugs, but the team found that analyzing just a few types of cells, such as skin cells, was enough to make connections to diseases that affect organs as diverse as the brain and the prostate.Continued...

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Lab-on-a-chip for heart attack detection

In Health on October 3, 2006 at 6:13 pm

Lab-on-a-chip for heart attack detection

Program #5,021 of the Earth & Sky Radio Series

Hosts Deborah Byrd and Joel Block
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Nature’s bottom-up nanofabrication of armor

In nano on October 3, 2006 at 1:34 am

Nanowerk Spotlight) Seashells are natural armor materials. Read more
The need for toughness arises because aquatic organisms are subject to fluctuating forces and impacts during motion or through interaction with a moving environment. Nacre (mother-of-pearl), the pearly internal layer of many mollusc shells, is the best example of a natural armor material that exhibits structural robustness, despite the brittle nature of their ceramic constituents. This material is composed of about 95% inorganic aragonite with only a few percent of organic biopolymer by volume. New research at the university of South Carolina reveals the toughening secrets in nacre: rotation and deformation of aragonite nanograins absorb energy in the deformation of nacre. The aragonite nanograins in nacre are not brittle but deformable. The new findings may lead to the development of ultra-tough nanocomposites, for instance for armor material, by realizing the rotation mechanism.
Super-tough and ultra-high temperature resistant materials are in critical need for applications under extreme conditions such as jet engines, power turbines, catalytic heat exchangers, military armors, aircrafts, and spacecrafts. Structural ceramics have largely failed to fulfill their promise of revolutionizing engines with strong materials that withstand very high temperature. The major problem with the use of ceramics as structural materials is their brittleness. Although many attempts have been made to increase their toughness, including incorporation of fibers, whiskers, or particles, and ZrO2 phase transformation toughening, currently available ceramics and their composites are still not as tough as metals and polymers. The brittleness of ceramic materials has not yet been overcome. It has proven difficult to solve this problem by conventional approaches.
On the other hand, Nature has evolved complex bottom-up methods for fabricating ordered nanostructured materials that often have extraordinary mechanical strength and toughness. One of the best examples is nacre. It has evolved through millions of years to a level of optimization not currently achieved in engineered composites.
This material has a brick-and-mortar-like structure with highly organized polygonal aragonite platelets of a thickness ranging from 200 to 500 nm and an edge length about 5 µm sandwiched with a 5-20 nm thick organic biopolymer interlayer, which assembles the aragonite platelets together. The combination of the soft organic biopolymer and the hard inorganic calcium carbonate produces a lamellar composite with a 2-fold increase in strength and a 1000-fold increase in toughness over its constituent materials.
Such remarkable properties have motivated many researchers to synthesize biomimetic nanocomposites that attempt to reproduce nature’s achievements and to understand the toughening and deformation mechanisms of natural nanocomposite materials.
Dr. Xiaodong Li, who heads the Nanostructures and Reliability Laboratory at the University of South Carolina, and his team have published two papers that examine the role of nanostructures in the amazing properties of nacre. In a first paper (” Nanoscale Structural and Mechanical Characterization of a Natural Nanocomposite Material: The Shell of Red Abalone”), the group reported the discovery of nanosized grains (particles) in nacre. However, the functionality of these aragonite nanograins was entirely unknown. Subsequently, many research groups asked: What roles do the nanoscale structures play in the inelasticity and toughening of nacre? Can we learn from this to produce nacre-like nanocomposites?
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Nanorisk newsletter

In nano on October 3, 2006 at 1:29 am

Insider Report

Why a newsletter about nanotechnology risks? Are we scaremongers? No; and we are not covering killer nanobots and grey goo either. Much of nanotechnology today is about producing nanoscale particles that, due to their size, have significantly more catalytic active surfaces.

We want to support a debate on the very real issues that we are facing today: the fact that engineered nanomaterials such as carbon nanotubes or titanium dioxide particles are finding their way from scientists’ laboratories into commercial products and we don’t understand the risks they pose to health and environment.

Be informed about the risks of engineered nanomaterials. We separate fact from fiction and give you the knowledge you need to know and the information you can trust.

Nanorisk is a bi-monthly newsletter published by Nanowerk LLC. You have to read it if you want to be informed about what research is being done, what results are reported, what regulatory bodies are up to, what experts have to say with regard to the risk of engineered nanomaterials.
Nanorisk webpage

“Toxicology – from coal mines to nanotechnology” is one of the hot topics in the October issue of Nanorisk
(Nanowerk News) The October issue of nanoRISK looks at the emergence of nanotoxicology; nanotechnology applications in architecture; the flip side of using carbon nanomaterials for environmental pollutant removal; and numerous briefs on papers, initiatives, upcoming events and new literature.
Nanowerk’s recently launched newsletter provides a wealth of risk-related nanotechnology information, compiled in one comprehensive, easy-to-read newsletter, on scientific research, regulatory updates and informed opinion about the risks posed by engineered nanoparticles and what is being done about them. A free copy of the premier edition of the bimonthly print newsletter is available at http://www.nanorisk.org.
“This newsletter is not about stopping nanotechnology or scaring people,” says Michael Berger, nanoRISK editor. “It is about providing a wealth of nanotechnology information, compiled in one comprehensive, easy-to-read newsletter, on scientific research, regulatory updates and informed opinion about the risks posed by engineered nanoparticles and what is being done about them.”
nanoRISK supports the debate on a very real and immediate issue – the fact that engineered nanoparticles are already finding their way from laboratories into commercial products and yet nobody really knows the effects they could have on living beings and the environment. Current toxicological and eco-toxicological risk assessment methodologies are not suited to the potential hazards associated with engineered nanoparticles.
Contents of previous and the current issue are available on the newsletter’s website at http://www.nanorisk.org

Genetic ‘Roadmap’ Charts Links Between Drugs And Human Disease

In Health on October 3, 2006 at 1:22 am

October 02, 2006

Genetic ‘Roadmap’ Charts Links Between Drugs And Human Disease (Science Daily)
October 2, 2006 05:59 AM Read more
A research team led by scientists at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard developed a new kind of genetic “roadmap” that can connect human diseases with potential drugs to treat them, as well as predict how new drugs work in human cells. Called the “Connectivity Map,” the tool and its uses are described in the September 29 issue of Science and in separate publications in the September 28
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Hitachi can track employees via Wi-Fi RFID tags (MobileMag)

In Uncategorized on October 3, 2006 at 1:19 am

October 02, 2006
Hitachi can track employees via Wi-Fi RFID tags (MobileMag)
October 2, 2006 09:24 AM Read more
Hitachi has moved forward in the RFID game, releasing a Wi-Fi-active tag for what the company calls “precise management of people.”
It is interesting that Wisconsin already moved ahead with a law which prohibits forced RFID implants
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