Monthly Archives: February 2016

“Swiss army knife” molecule

Scientists at ETH Zurich and an ETH spin-off have developed a novel polymer for coating materials, in order to prevent biofilms from forming on their surfaces. Thanks to the technological platform developed, it is now possible to coat durably a variety of different materials using the same polymeric molecule. Such coatings are of relevance for medical applications, among others.  Rest

Harvard student develops technique to diagnose cancer from a single drop of blood

NEIL DAVEY, A.B. ’18, WINS SILVER MEDAL AT COLLEGIATE INVENTORS COMPETITION

January 5, 2016
  • Harvard student Neil Davey worked in the lab of mentor David Weitz, Mallinckrodt Professor of Physics and Applied Physics.

Harvard student Neil Davey, A.B. ’18, has developed a technique that pushes the possibility of non-invasive cancer diagnosis one step closer to reality. Davey recently won a silver medal in the undergraduate section of the National Inventors Hall of Fame’s Collegiate Inventors Competition for his research project, “Early Cancer Diagnosis by the Detection of Circulating Tumor Cells using Drop-based Microfluidics.”

His technique involves injecting a tiny amount of blood into a microfluidic device to encapsulate single cells from the blood stream in individual microfluidic drops. Once the cells have been encapsulated, Davey uses a polymerase chain reaction (PCR), a common technique in molecular biology, to target and amplify fragments of cancer DNA within the drops.  Rest

Scientists Take Key Step Toward Custom-made Nanoscale Chemical Factories

[Our BioNano future depends on our ability to make many more types of these nanoscale chemical factories!]

Scientists have for the first time reengineered a building block of a geometric nanocompartment that occurs naturally in bacteria. They introduced a metal binding site to its shell that will allow electrons to be transferred to and from the compartment. This provides an entirely new functionality, greatly expanding the potential of nanocompartments to serve as custom-made chemical factories.

Scientists hope to tailor this new use to produce high-value chemical products, such as medicines, on demand.

The sturdy nanocompartments, which are polyhedral shells composed of triangle-shaped sides and resemble 20-sided dice, are formed by hundreds of copies of just three different types of proteins. Their natural counterparts, known as bacterial microcompartments or BMCs, encase a wide variety of enzymes that carry out highly specialized chemistry in bacteria.

The shell of a bacterial microcompartment (or BMC) is mainly composed of hexagonal proteins, with pentagonal proteins capping the vertices, similar to a soccer ball (left). Scientists have engineered one of these hexagonal proteins, normally devoid of any metal center, to bind an iron-sulfur cluster (orange and yellow sticks, upper right). This cluster can serve as an electron relay to transfer electrons across the shell. Introducing this new functionality in the shell of a BMC greatly expands their possibilities as custom-made bio-nanoreactors. (Credit: Clément Aussignargues/MSU, Cheryl Kerfeld and Markus Sutter/Berkeley Lab)

The shell of a bacterial microcompartment (or BMC) is mainly composed of hexagonal proteins, with pentagonal proteins capping the vertices, similar to a soccer ball (left). Scientists have engineered one of these hexagonal proteins, normally devoid of any metal center, to bind an iron-sulfur cluster (orange and yellow sticks, upper right). This cluster can serve as an electron relay to transfer electrons across the shell. Introducing this new functionality in the shell of a BMC greatly expands their possibilities as custom-made bio-nanoreactors. (Credit: Clément Aussignargues/MSU, Cheryl Kerfeld and Markus Sutter/Berkeley Lab)

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The Race is On: One Month Left to Submit

The National Cancer Institute and Center for Advancing Innovation are sponsoring a challenge to accelerate translation and commercialization of nanomedicines. The Challenge is open to the public and asks entrants to form teams to develop a business plan around cancer nanotechnology inventions. These inventions can originate from an intramural NIH program or can be brought forward by the entering team. Details on the challenge can be found at http://www.nscsquared.org/.NSC2 nano cancer challenge logo

Teams that enter the NSC2 Challenge will be advised and evaluated by a group of experienced researchers, industry leaders, and investors with an ultimate goal to commercialize these inventions. It is expected that the Challenge will help to accelerate and increase the volume of commercialized cancer nanotechnologies, bringing hope and health to millions of families affected by cancer.

The deadline has been extended to March 1st; submissions are due one month from today! A direct link to the Letter of Intent to join the Challenge can be found at: http://www.jotformpro.com/form/52454438639969. For a complete submission, you will need … Rest