Documenting the Coming Singularity

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Precision Drug Delivery Achieved

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the key to nanotech's power is in its precision. Assembling structures one atom or molecule at a time, or delivering precise dosages of drugs to precise locations, it's about precision. Researchers at Iowa State University have made a major breakthrough in the latter by using nano-sized devices to "penetrate plant cell walls and simultaneously deliver a gene and a chemical that triggers its expression with controlled precision."
Currently, scientists can successfully introduce a gene into a plant cell. In a separate process, chemicals are used to activate the gene's function. The process is imprecise and the chemicals could be toxic to the plant.

"With the mesoporous nanoparticles, we can deliver two biogenic species at the same time," Wang said. "We can bring in a gene and induce it in a controlled manner at the same time and at the same location. That's never been done before."
The devices themselves are amazing creations in their own right:
It is a porous, silica nanoparticle system. Spherical in shape, the particles have arrays of independent porous channels. The channels form a honeycomb-like structure that can be filled with chemicals or molecules.

"One gram of this kind of material can have a total surface area of a football field, making it possible to carry a large payload," Trewyn said.

Lin's nanoparticle has a unique "capping" strategy that seals the chemical goods inside. In previous studies, his group successfully demonstrated that the caps can be chemically activated to pop open and release the cargo inside of animal cells. This unique feature provides total control for timing the delivery.
Very little imagination is required to see where this research can lead in terms of the ability to deliver medicines and gene-therapies to the specific cells that need them. Even further, we can envision the development of nano-devices that will repair damaged cells and clean up the toxic waste products that our bodies fail to deal with. Radical life-extension, here we come.


[via Nanosingularity]

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