Stories about: nanotechnology

Could nanotechnology improve treatment of heart attack and heart failure?

People who have had a heart attack or have coronary artery disease often sustain damage that weakens their heart. Milder forms of heart failure can be treated with medications, but advanced heart dysfunction requires surgery or heart transplant. A team of physicians, engineers and materials scientists at Children’s Hospital Boston and MIT offers two alternative ways to strengthen weakened, scarred heart tissue — both involving nanotechnology.

One approach blends nanotechnology with tissue engineering to create a heart patch laced with gold whose cells all beat in time – as shown in the above video.

The other uses minute nanoparticles that can find their way to dying heart tissue, carrying stem cells, growth factors, drugs and other therapeutic compounds.

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Making sperm impotent

A patch-clamp recording captures the electrical activity of a single sperm cell.

It’s found only in the tails of sperm. It takes seven genes to build it. It gets activated as the sperm gets closer to the egg, giving it that extra whip and thrust to make it across the finish line.

David Clapham, its discoverer, named it CatSper. Blocking it could literally make sperm impotent. This could be the basis of a new contraceptive gel or a pill that could be used by men or women.

And that’s of interest to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. With the world’s population projected to reach 7 billion this year,

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Tissue engineering meets nanotechnology: A look at tomorrow’s medicine

Tal Dvir, PhD, is a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratories of Robert Langer, ScD (MIT) and Daniel Kohane, MD, PhD (Children’s Hospital Boston, Harvard Medical School).

As tissue engineers, we seek to develop functioning substitutes for damaged tissues and organs. Generally, this means seeding cells onto 3-dimensional porous scaffolds made of biomaterials, which provide mechanical support and instructive cues for the developing engineered tissue. Now it’s time to go to the next level, and make complex tissues that can really do things — contract, release growth factors, conduct electrical signals and more. Things our own cells and tissues do.

A review by Dvir et al:

Engineering a functional tissue is difficult. Cells must be organized into tissues with structural and physiological features resembling actual structures in the body. The outer connective tissue that supports cells, known as the extracellular matrix, is especially interesting to us. The matrix and its components — fibers, adhesion proteins, proteoglycans and others — provide cells with a wealth of information that regulates cell growth, shape, migration and differentiation.

To mimic these physiologic features, we work at the nanoscale – creating structures at the range of 1 billionth of a meter,

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Small is the new big: My gestalt moment at BIO

When I first arrived in Chicago for the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) conference in May, I couldn’t help but feel small. The buildings are taller than in Boston, but I felt especially small inside the gigantic conference center. The ceilings were far overhead, and the walk across was marathon-long. The number of attendees was over 15,000, an ocean of people. I felt further diminished by the keynote speakers, who included George Bush, Bill Clinton and Al Gore.

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