Why the breakthrough, now?One of the current hobby horses of scientists is the development of a lab-on-a-chip. The ideology behind it is simple. If one can program computers to do mathematics, can chips be designed to perform traditional laboratory tasks?
Inkjet printers were developed to simply print a digital image onto paper. However, the technology itself isn't simple at all; inkjet printers work essentially by propelling tiny droplets of a liquid material onto a substrate in a highly precise way. Software links the digital image to be transferred to the action of a 'smart' nozzle, and controls the ratio of the liquids or inks dispensed that form the droplets. The viscosity and rheological properties of the 'ink' formulations are critical to their 'jettability', and an important characteristic of inkjet printing is that it is contactless.
Since the early 1990s, the concepts of miniaturization have been applied to chemical and biological problems. Of special interest has been the development of lab-on-a-chip techniques, using microfluidics, and driven by a need to accomplish rapid analysis of the small sample volumes needed in drug discovery, high-throughput screening, genomics and medical diagnostics. However, the appeal of microfluidic technology lies in the fact that physical processes can be more easily controlled, accelerated and exploited when instrument dimensions are miniaturised.
More 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. Robert Wootton and Andrew deMello report on recent advances in this area and ponder the extraordinary potential of microdroplets as analytical tools.
Bringing Nanotechnology to Life – early applications and markets for nanotechnology in the Medical and Healthcare Industries
Nanotechnology is bringing the Star Trek model of healthcare even closer. 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. Below is a whistle stop tour of some applications that are fundamentally changing the way medicine is practised.
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. ScientistsRachel McKendry, Joseph Ndieyira and Gabriel Aeppli from the London Centre for Nanotechnology at University College London 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.
The Centre of Excellence in Metrology for Micro and Nano Technologies (CEMMNT) is a new company funded by the UK Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and its partner organisations. It has been established to provide open access design, measurement and characterisation services and solutions to organisations commercialising new products and processes based on micro and nano technologies (MNT).
In every issue we bring you an interview with a leading opinion maker from the world of nanotechnology. Ottilia Saxl talks with CEA-LETI Director Laurent Malier about his burning ambitions.
In this article, Richard Moore examines some of the characteristics that make nanomedicine different to conventional approaches and potentially exciting in opening up new treatment opportunities.
An atomic force microscope on board NASA’s Phoenix Lander, currently sitting on the arctic pole of Mars, has returned the very first image of a single particle of dust from the red planet, providing new clues about the history of water on Mars and taking another step towards the possibility of a manned mission.
The pinhole camera, a technique known since ancient times, has inspired a futuristic technology for lensless, three-dimensional imaging. Working at both the Advanced Light Source (ALS) at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and at FLASH, the free-electron laser in Hamburg, Germany, an international group of scientists has produced two of the brightest, sharpest x-ray holograms of microscopic objects ever made, thousands of times more efficiently than previous x-ray-holographic methods.
Laser scanning microscopes are at the forefront of scientific research. Advances in microscopy are already enabling researchers to image live cells and tissues in three dimensions, but there are improvements to be made.