Of the many industry sectors that nanotechnology impinges upon, a possibly surprising leader in embracing the latest ideas the nano world has to offer is the textile industry. Not only does this industry look to nanotechnology to give it an edge in fashion, but, as you can read in this issue of NANO magazine, there are some surprising and exciting innovations in the form of nano-based textiles for a range of personal protection and healthcare applications, emerging from some of the world’s leading universities.
As healthcare poses an increasing challenge for 21st century societies, in this issue we also cover the applications of nanotechnology to beating superbugs, the early diagnosis and treatment of disease, and an innovative high throughput screening technique, plus we take a look at the potential lucrative markets for nanomedical products.
New! 'Investors Corner'. NANO Magazine, in pursuing its strategy for innovation, will be highlighting a nano start up in each issue that offer a breakthrough in solving some previously difficult, expensive or time- consuming problem. First off, Crysalin Ltd, offers a faster and more effective technique in the multi billion dollar market that is pre-clinical drug screening.
In line with our focus on textiles, we hear about smart fabrics that can sense blood, and how a sensing capability is also being incorporated into Kevlar. In Nicholas Kotov's lab, in the University of Michigan, work is taking place on the design and engineering of new conductive materials with blood and other biosensing capabilities. This has vital applications for individuals working in extreme conditions where it may be difficult to detect bleeding. Other research on embedding nano clays into Kevlar fabrics is leading to better ballistic-impact resistant materials, with sensing potential which is now being commercialised by Nico Technologies Inc.
In the field of textiles for personal protection, nanotechnology offers protection and comfort, with some additional surprising applications in improving air quality. In a wide-ranging article, international expert, Professor Kay Obendorf, from the College of Human Ecology, Cornell University, explains how the application of nanotechnology is providing chemically and biologically protective materials allied with improved comfort and performance. Some of these new materials are also being utilized to improve air quality in the built environment, benefiting hospitalised patients with lowered immune systems.
On realising that nanotechnology could not only provide great benefit for health but also for agriculture, energy, water and many of the other challenges that the developing world struggles with, Peter Singer has channelled his passion and energies into researching how best beneficial nanotechnologies can be exploited. In this issue, Professor Singer talks to Ottilia Saxl about his groundbreaking research, the 'four forces' that facilitate the transition from lab to village; the top 10 nanotechnologies that offer real benefits to the developing world; the importance of serious scholarly research on the real ethical and social implications of nanotechnology; and of the necessity that the nanotechnology community thinks about their responsibilities to the less advantaged on the planet, in a more co-ordinated way.
The featured country in this issue is Canada, notable for its well funded facilities and research that is aggressively focused on industrial applications. Although having no unifying national nanotechnology initiative, there are many extremely well-funded organisations with world class facilities that are undertaking important nano-related research. Ten of these centres are highlighted, along with a new network that will research into innovative plastics and manufacturing processes, and added value can be gained in this field - with the economic future benefit for Canada firmly in mind!
Cantilevers - the secret weapon behind a breakthrough in the fight against drug-resistant infectious diseases. The alarming rise in drug-resistant hospital 'superbugs', and the associated increase in fatalities, is driving the development of new technologies to speed up the discovery of novel antibiotics to combat them. Researchers from the London Centre for Nanotechnology are using tiny arrays of nanomechanical sensors to investigate the workings of vancomycin, one of the few antibiotics that can be used to combat increasingly resistant infections, including MRSA, thus paving the way for the development of more effective new drugs.
Microdroplets, as self-contained, mini laboratories, offer almost infinite opportunities for high throughput screening and analysis. Lab-on-a-chip techniques using microfluidics has been driven by a need to accomplish rapid analysis of small sample volumes in genomics, drug discovery, high-throughput screening and medical diagnostics. Recently, some scientists have begun to generate microdroplets within microfluidic structures. These droplets have vanishingly small volumes and hold much promise as tools in high-throughput analysis. Read the report on recent advances in this area and ponder the extraordinary potential of microdroplets as analytical tools.
Bringing nanotechnology to life. Nanotechnology is bringing the 'Star Trek' model of healthcare even closer to reality. Disease can be identified early and non-invasively; drugs can be targeted and delivered directly to the disease site; cochlear and retinal implants, based on nanoelectronics, are closer than ever to mimicking nature; and medical implants are being produced that can communicate with, and respond to, the outside world. This article offers a whistle stop tour of some of the applications that are fundamentally changing the way medicine is practised.
Can nanomedicine provide answers to some of the world's healthcare challenges? The growing proportion of elderly people, the continuing growth of the world population in general, lifestyle habits, unhealthy diets and less and less exercise are leading to more than a proportional growth in chronic diseases. The constant struggle to control the exploding costs of the healthcare system, while satisfying the increasing demand, and at the same time improving the quality of care, poses a seemingly insurmountable problem to the future of healthcare. Hans Hofstraat, of Philips Healthcare, discusses what nanomedicine might offer in addressing the meltdown in global healthcare systems, predicted by 2015.