Press Releases: Research Funded by Agencies Participating in the National Nanotechnology Initiative

(Funded in part by the U.S. Department of Defense, the National Science Foundation, and the National Institutes of Health)

Researchers from Florida State University, the Scripps Research Institute, and the University of California San Diego have developed a new biosensor for detecting biological markers related to several types of cancer. The biosensor is made of a gold nanoparticle and molecules called peptides that are labeled with a dye. When a patient sample contains a biomarker for cancer, the biomarker breaks bonds in the peptides, separating a fragment with the dye from the gold. Without the gold to absorb the energy from the dye, the sample begins to glow, indicating the presence of cancer.

(Funded by the National Science Foundation)

Scientists from the University of California, Irvine, and the National Institute for Materials Science in Tsukuba, Japan, have reported the discovery of nanoscale devices that can transform into many different shapes and sizes even though they exist in solid states. What the scientists saw specifically was that tiny nanoscale gold wires could slide with very low friction on top of special crystals called van der Waals materials. Taking advantage of these slippery interfaces, they made electronic devices with single-atom-thick sheets of a substance called graphene attached to gold wires that can be transformed into a variety of different configurations on the fly.

(Funded in part by the National Institutes of Health)

Houston Methodist Research Institute nanomedicine researchers have found a way to tame pancreatic cancer – one of the most aggressive and difficult to treat cancers – by delivering immunotherapy directly into the tumor with a device that is smaller than a grain of rice. Immunotherapy holds promise in treating cancers that previously did not have good treatment options, but so far, immunotherapy has been delivered throughout the entire body, causing many side effects. "Our goal is to transform the way cancer is treated," said Alessandro Grattoni, one of the scientists involved in the study. “We see this device as a viable approach to penetrating the pancreatic tumor in a minimally invasive and effective manner, allowing for a more focused therapy using less medication.”

(Funded in part by the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation)

A Pennsylvania State University-led international collaboration has fabricated a self-powered, standalone sensor system capable of monitoring gas molecules in the environment or in human breath. The system combines nanogenerators with micro-supercapacitors to harvest and store energy generated by human movement. 

(Funded by the National Science Foundation)

An ideal nanovesicle to fight cancer needs to have three functionalities: * a molecule that would bind to surface markers on cancer cells, * a strongly bound radionuclide signal that would allow a PET scan to locate the vesicles in the body, and * the ability to carry and release a drug treatment in the tumor. Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham have now described a tiny polymersome – a 60-#nanometer hollow sphere with a thin wall – that appears to have these functionalities. 

(Funded by the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Defense and the National Institutes of Health)

Engineers at Duke University have produced the world's first fully recyclable printed electronics that replace the use of chemicals with water in the fabrication process. In previous work, the researchers demonstrated the first fully recyclable printed electronics. The devices used three carbon-based inks: semiconducting carbon nanotubes, conductive graphene and insulating nanocellulose. This time, the engineers developed a cyclical process in which the device is rinsed with water, dried in relatively low heat and printed on again. When the amount of surfactant used in the ink is also tuned down, the inks and processes can create fully functional, fully recyclable, fully water-based transistors.

(Funded in part by the National Institutes of Health)

Currently, there is only one approved treatment that reduces the severity of the allergic reaction resulting from peanut allergies, and it takes months to kick in. A group of immunologists from the University of California, Los Angeles, is aiming to change that. Taking inspiration from COVID-19 vaccines as well as their own research, they created a first-of-its-kind nanoparticle that delivers mRNA to specific cells in the liver. Those cells, in turn, teach the body's natural defenses to tolerate peanut proteins.

(Funded by the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Defense, and the National Institutes of Health)

Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Pittsburgh have developed lipid nanoparticles that are designed to carry mRNA specifically to the pancreas. The researchers packaged mRNA instructions for a bioluminescent protein into lipid nanoparticles and then injected them into mice either intravenously or intraperitoneally (that is, directly into the fluid that surrounds the pancreas). Using the glowing protein to see where the mRNA had traveled, they found that intraperitoneal injection resulted in more abundant and more specific delivery to the pancreas, compared with intravenous injection.

(Funded by the National Institutes of Health)

Researchers from Drexel University, the University of Pennsylvania, Reading Hospital (Reading, PA), and Acuitas Therapeutics (Vancouver, Canada) have shown that lipid nanoparticles – a vital component of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines – stimulate innate immune cells more efficiently in younger individuals than older ones. The researchers stress that understanding the immune responses to lipid nanoparticles in the aged population may help to offer strategies to improve vaccines in the aged population, or even tailor vaccines that are specific for that population.

(Funded in part by the National Institutes of Health)

Engineers at MIT, the University of Massachusetts Medical School, and the University of Toronto have designed a new type of nanoparticle that can be administered to the lungs, where it can deliver messenger RNA encoding useful proteins. With further development, these nanoparticles could offer an inhalable treatment for cystic fibrosis and other diseases of the lungs, the researchers say. "This is the first demonstration of highly efficient delivery of RNA to the lungs in mice," says Daniel Anderson, a scientist involved in this study.