Nov 19, 2015

This week in Nano (Week 47 Nov 16th-22nd)

Nanotechnology and James Bond: Love it or hate it the new offering from Ian Fleming 'Spectre' has hit the screens and 007 is at it again! The globe-trotting, Martini drinking, misogynist spy is the topic of this blog - why? Well in Spectre, Q has a new trick up his sleeve, all thanks to the wonders of nanotechnology!!

At the start of the movie, Q injects James Bond with nanoparticles. Apparently these particles (Q refers to them as 'Smart Blood') allows Q to track Bonds every move indefinitely(!!) via a computer device. This happens at the start of the movie, so 007 has to deal with MI6 knowing his every whereabouts as he fights his way around the planet. But how likely is this scenario??

Well, it is not such a crazy suggestion! Injectables involving nanomaterials (NMs) are very interesting to researchers, and there are a host of researchers working on injectable NMs particularly in the medical diagnostics/device field. Companies such as MagForce have European regulatory approval for its Nano-Cancer® therapy. They offer therapies that directly inject NMs into brain tumours to allow for tumour destruction.  Others companies such as Blaze Bioscience have drugs in trial that can be injected into the body and once circulating can “light up” cancer cells thus indicating them for destruction.

Researchers focus on: the types of NMs that are biocompatible or rendering nanocomposites biocompatible, using NMs as sensors (nanobiosensors), targeted drug delivery using NMs themselves or using the NMs as trojan horse style devices, nanomedical devices such as nanobots, chips or implants as well of course as researching nanotoxicology or nano remediation, which focuses on toxicity evaluations of NMs. 

Given the degree to which we are using NMs in the medical field and the promising development of this area, how long is it until we can have a nano RFID style tags/bots circulating in the body? Although smart blood may not be a reality (would we even want that?) science is not that far behind Q when it comes to injectable nanomaterials!

Now, what is the science behind shaken not stirred- that is a whole other debate.

Oct 25, 2015

This week in Nano (Week 43 October 19th-25th)

A study entitled 'Anthropogenic Carbon Nanotubes Found in the Airways of Parisian Children' hit the headlines this week after it was published via EBioMedicine

Here are some of the headlines:

The article can be found here.  What does the paper actually report?

1. The study looked at bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) obtained from 64 asthmatic children living in Paris who underwent a  bronchoalveolar lavage treatment. During such a treatment sterile saline fluid is squirted into the lungs and then this fluid  from bronchioles and lung alveoli are removed for diagnosis. Healthy patients where not considered or this study due to ethical reasons - a bronchoaveolar lavage is invasive procedure.

2. The objective of the study was to characterise the particulate matter found in the samples (BAL, as well as dust samples and car exhaust)

3.  The samples were collected over a period from 2007-2011 and frozen until analysed (later 5 non frozen samples were also characterised).

4. The samples were unfrozen, centrifuged and the pellet was mixed with distilled water. This sample was then vortexed for 2 min, stirred for 12 hours, sonicated  and vortexed . The subsequent pellet was  re-dispersion in  purified water with sonication for 10 min. 3 μL of the resulting suspension was deposited onto the TEM grid

5. TEM pictures show fibre like structures ('aggregated PM and filament-like structures') subsequent analysis shows this to be carbonaceous in nature.

6. The authors concluded that carbon nanotubes (CNT) were present in all randomly selected samples, and the CNTs observed in the lungs of Parisian children are similar to those detected in dust and vehicle exhaust samples collected in the Parisian area. These CNTs are present in all examined samples.

Overall an interesting read.  It would be nice to see some more TEM samples from the study (perhaps as a supplement).  It would also be nice to see some comparisons of these TEM images with TEM images of other BAL, dust and car exhaust studies.

carbon nanotubes
Kolosnjaj-Tabi et al., 2015
Kolosnjaj-Tabi et al., 2015

Don't forget that the Who Reads Science Blogs questionnaire is still open. Please be kind enough to help us find out more about who reads science blogs and why by taking a few minutes to fill it out....there are prizes available!!You can find it here:

Oct 23, 2015

Who Reads Science Blogs Anyway????

I don't have a blog post today as I am out on the road......however if you are interested in helping us understand more about who reads science blogs around the Globe then please complete this survey:
This survey is being conducted by researchers at Louisiana State University. But wait there is more!!
If you complete this survey fully, you will instantly receive a free high-resolution digital download of a science art photograph . You will also be entered into a draw for various prizes including a Science Borealis t-shirt (5 available), a PLOS t-shirt (10 available), and a $50.00 gift card (100 available)!

Oct 18, 2015

This week in Nano (Week 42 12th-18th October)

This summer just gone the European Nano-Characterisation Laboratory (EU-NCL) funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme was launched. The lab hopes to alleviate the bottleneck in research when it comes to nanomaterial characterisation by providing a wide range of NM characterisation options. Knowing more about NM helps researchers to better understand/predict the in vivo effects of their nanomaterials. Hopefully this lab will be fully operational by 2017-2020 (phase three f the programme). For more information on the participating research institutes see here.

For those with a subscription to nature this Q&A session with Ali Yetisen about research using nanotechnology and biosensors to make environmentally responsive materials for clothes, tattoos, accessories and contact lenses is an interesting read. It is pay walled but it can be found here. 

“The binding of serum proteins can profoundly change the behaviour of nanoparticles, at times leading to rapid clearance by the body and a diminished clinical outcome,” - Asst Prof Kah. The protein corona is a topic that is of growing interest in the nano field, and this study published in Small (Observing nano-bio interactions in real time) details a new technique to investigate the corona formation.  The nanoparticles where immobilised to the surface of a sensor chip. The chip was specially modified to prevented non-specific binding. They then used surface plasmon resonance (SPR) technology to measure the protein corona. New techniques ans studies like this gives us a better understanding of how proteins in the bloodstream bind to nanoparticles. Ultimately this could lead to better nanomedicines.

Oct 4, 2015

This week in Nano: Week 40 (28th Sept-4th October)

NANO IN FOOD always makes headlines and I like this blog piece on 2020Science regarding the recent Friends of the Earth commissioned study (TEM pictures of food samples) which adds more dimension to the whole debate.

I recently discovered and wanted to share! is a platform for funding scientific discoveries. Want to fund a project investigating targeted drug delivery by using magnetic antiparticles or is investigating if toxins can incite Fungi to synthesize novel antibiotics more your thing? Either way you can help make these projects a reality via

Sep 27, 2015

This week in Nano: Week 39 (Sept 21st-27th)

Like the new Risk Bites video on Microbeads and after the publication of the article 'Scientific Evidence Supports a Ban on Microbeads' in the journal of Environmental Science and Technology it is a great start to begin to understand why micorbeads are a cause for concern.

The Volkswagen scandal hit the press this week with the car manufacturing company admitting that software was used to lower emissions results during laboratory tests of some of its diesel vehicles.
This BBC article 'The science behind the Volkswagen emissions scandal' gives a good run down on why controlling the levels of Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in our atmosphere is important. Briefly NO2 is one of a group of highly reactive gasses and it is used as an indicator for the larger group of nitrogen oxides.  Nitrous oxides form when fuel is burned at high temperatures, and comes principally from the exhaust of transport vehicles power plants, electric utilities and industrial boilers.  It contributes to the formation of ozone, and fine particle pollution and has been linked with many adverse effects on the respiratory system.
Image taken from

This report from the RIVM 'Grouping nanomaterials: A strategy towards grouping and read-across' addresses the inherent problem of nanomaterial tox testing (that individual physico-chemical parameters and (eco)toxicity endpoint analysis incurs huge costs/ require animal testing and time). This report looked at a way to develop a method of extrapolate test results from one nanomaterial to another in order to address these concerns. As the summary concludes the strategy 'has proven useful in two hypothetical case studies (nanosilver and nanotitanium dioxide). Nevertheless, it was concluded that improvement is needed for the documentation of the information from the laboratory testing of nanomaterials to support read-across. Particularly relevant physico-chemical properties of the nanomaterials and test conditions need more detailed descriptions. Furthermore, the scientific community needs to continue developing test methods that can characterize certain behaviours of nanomaterials to support read-across.' So the same take home message to researchers working on nanomaterials - characterisation characterisation and characterisation! The report can be found here.