Charles Ostman
The NanoBiology Imperative
Thu Oct 26, 2006 03:50

Charles Ostman Index:

The NanoBiology Imperative

All living things are nanofoundries. Nature has perfected the artform of biological nanotechnology for billions of years. Now, an emerging technology domain is poised to present a toolkit from which new lifeforms can be crafted, the inner molecular workings of living cells can be directly manipulated, even aging may be treated not as a disease, but as a reversable pathology. The very definition of life itself is perched at the edge of the next great revolution in medicine: nanobiology. Currently existing are technologies and applications in the arenas of biomolecular components and biocompatible surfaces integrated into microscale systems, implantable biochip devices, synthetically engineered quasi-viral components, modified DNA, structured proteomics, pseudoproteins, biomolecular "devices". What is coming are artificially engineered organelles and cells, technologies which combine organic and inorganic materials and substrates into integrated nanoscale systems, "biomolecular prosthetics", and intra-cellular modification strategies which will redefine the very essense of what is commonly referred to as life.

The worlds of biotechnology and nanotechnology currently converge into nanobiology. The first patents for utilizing a modified virus as a proteomic delivery vehicle, that being a molecular scale "device" which can seek out specific cells and deliver various materials to the inner parts of those cells, were issued to Onyx pharmaceuticals in 1996. In 1997, the Nanobiological Systems Group of Searle Labs (a division of Monsanto Chemical) was using dendrimer molecules, a sort of complex nanoscale branching structure which can be "grown" into very specific geometric forms, as another type of cellular targeting and delivery system. These same dendrimer molecules also are part of a growing collection of self-assembling and self organizing "components", the leggo blocks of nanotechnology. Now several companies have emerged into the marketplace with their versions of these dendrimer molecular systems.

Molecular protein delivery to targeted, specific cell types is currently being developed as a method for instigating physiological adjustment or modifications within living cells. In this context, protein can be viewed as being the functional equvilant of "software" which instructs the activities of biomolecular mechanisms and organelles within the cell, somewhat in the same way that machine code instructs computer processor chips to perform various functions. Among many such examples of this process being currently studied, is the utilization of the P53 protein, which can act like a "switch" to literally shut down the metabolism of a living cell. This has potential, for instance, as a possible cure for various forms of cancer, in that the cancer cells have a genetic identity different than the original cell types from which they emanated, and therefore can be "targeted" for delivery of this P53 protein.


Carbon nanotubes offer 'green' technology for perchlorate removal. Researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have demonstrated a new, environmentally friendly process for treating water contaminated by perchlorate, a toxic chemical that has been found in drinking water in 35 states. Physorg 7.25.06

Nanotechnology being used to improve biocompatibility of human prosthetics and implants. As populations of the world age the current trend is that people are not slowing down in their later years. The desire for increased activity among the elderly also means increased demands on medical researchers to come up with better ways to keep them active. A2Z 8.2.06


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