Print 13 comment(s) - last by Regs.. on Dec 19 at 1:20 PM

New nanotube design can detect toxins, free radicals, and damaging free radicals

Carbon nanotubes are fast becoming one of the ubiquitous technology components of the twenty-first century, much as plastics and silicon were in the last.  From electronics, to building materials, to medicine, no challenge seem above the amazing carbon molecules, whose properties read like a materials engineer's wish list.

The latest application may be to use nanotubes as tiny sensors to detect whether chemical agents pertinent to the study of cancer were present and whether they were active.  Researchers at MIT wrapped nanotubes in special segments of DNA and were able to successfully detect the quantity and status of chemotherapy drugs, toxins, and free radicals.  The common drug cisplatin was among the chemotherapy agents detected.

Michael Strano, associate professor of chemical engineering and one of the study's leaders describes, "We've made a sensor that can be placed in living cells, healthy or malignant, and actually detect several different classes of molecules that damage DNA."

The new sensor could play a critical role in evaluating the success of chemotherapy treatments.  As most chemotherapy agents act as DNA disruptors, and can harm living cells, it is critical to see if they are successfully reaching their targets -- cancer cells, and how much is accumulating in healthy cells.  Daniel Heller, a graduate student in chemical engineering, also a leader of the project, describes, "You could figure out not only where the drugs are, but whether a drug is active or not."

The new sensor detects DNA-alkylating agents, a class of molecules that both cancer-causing free radicals and some cancer-fighting chemotherapy drugs fall under.  Hydrogen peroxide and hydroxyl radicals were two of the toxins detected by the sensors.  For hydrogen peroxide, the sensor could detect single molecules of the chemical.

When exposed to fluorescent light, the nanotubes, which congregate around their targets, light up, while human tissue does not.  The nanotubes bind to their target via bonding between the DNA coating and the DNA disruptors.  When exposed to light, depending on the agent bound to the DNA, different wavelengths of light are emitted, allowing the particular compound attached to be determined.

The nanotubes are human-safe as they are coated in DNA, which protects living cells from harmful effects of nanotubes

The research is reported in this month's issue of the journal Nature Nanotechnology.

The researchers plan to next test the effectiveness of more chemotherapy drugs using the sensors, and also to test the cancer-fighting effectiveness of popular antioxidants such as chemicals found in green tea.

The research is funded by grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

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We need more MITs
By Regs on 12/15/2008 5:38:12 PM , Rating: 5
Give them grants, donations, I don't care. I love hearing news like this because it actually means we're progressing. Customers have new expectations in health care. Allergy medicine can only go so far.

It was much to be surprise and delight that our new CEO of our pharmaceutical company wants to think outside the box. As in looking into other resources of research to develope new medication. Schools like MIT are a gold mine.

RE: We need more MITs
By FITCamaro on 12/16/2008 7:48:13 AM , Rating: 2
You might be surprised how that funding could dry up in the next few years if nationalized health care sets in. There won't be any incentive to develop new drugs if drug companies can't make any money off them. Who wants to spend a few billion developing a drug if you're forced to sell it at a near break even point. The US was one of the last places where drug companies could actually profit off their drugs due to socialized medicine throughout Europe and Canada.

RE: We need more MITs
By myhipsi on 12/16/2008 8:59:07 AM , Rating: 4
I'm Canadian, and while I have mixed feelings on nationalized health care, I don't think drug companies will cease to profit from drugs if this were the case (There are some canadian pharma companies ie. Apotex inc.). Maybe it will force them to cut back on spending and stop selling billions in advertising, which in my opinion is wrong. People shouldn't be advised by ads to go to their doctors and ask about drugs. ie. "ask you doctor about the new purple pill". It should be done as it was years ago, you go to your doctor, they diagnose you and they treat you with whatever drug they see is most appropriate.

There is another positive side effect of nationalized health care and that is more incentive to promote and educate about nutrition and health because the cost of a societys healthcare goes down when the general population lives a healthier lifestyle. I'm not suggesting that living a healthy lifestyle will guarentee you a long life without health problems but it has been proven that diet and excercise play a pivitol role in protecting longterm health.

Lastly, I would argue that while US drug companies have produced some amazing drugs that have helped many people live better lives, unfortunately they aren't motivated to research ways of preventing the diseases these drugs were designed to treat. Because, lets face it, if the population was healthy and near disease free, drug companies would go under.

Don't get me wrong though, there are definitely real disadvantages of nationalized health care, like long wait times, cost (ie. higher income taxes) and abuse (ie. people going to the doctor for a hang nail or a cold). But at the same time, there are real benefits as well. What I would like to see in Canada is a two tier system, which has been talked about for some time, where the average joe who has very little income can still get treatment, surgery, etc. and at the same time, People who can afford it don't have to wait four months for an MRI.

RE: We need more MITs
By Gzus666 on 12/16/2008 10:08:54 AM , Rating: 3
Well written sir. Have to say it's true. I remember back before they advertised prescription drugs I could actually trust a doctor, now it is a bit hard to find one that isn't just peddling drugs to you for no reason.

I find it hilarious that they sell things like Viagra to help with erections when the actual problem is usually blood pressure. Of course they won't fix the root problem, just bandage the symptoms. "Sorry Billy, I know you have MS but we are too busy with boner and hair pills to fix it. Instead, wheel your ass around in this chair.". Just makes you all warm and fuzzy inside.

RE: We need more MITs
By isorfir on 12/16/2008 9:01:39 AM , Rating: 2
Thanks for backing up your assertions with no facts.

Drug companies already spend a minimum on R&D: 13.4% (vs. 24.4% on advertising).

Imagine how many more beneficial treatments they could discover if the poured all of their advertising dollars into R&D?

Note: The U.S. and New Zealand are the only two countries in the world that allow prescription drug advertising.

RE: We need more MITs
By FITCamaro on 12/16/2008 12:42:12 PM , Rating: 3
So you're going off two doctors estimates for that info?

Fact is that socialized medicine forces drug companies to sell their products at government set prices. So where do they make up the difference? Here in the US. And since they've only got 10 years before their patent expires, they have to make as much as they can, as fast as they can.

I won't pretend that I think medication is out of control here. But I don't blame that on drug companies. You choose to take them. Parents choose to give them to their kids. I see commercials for drugs all the time that make me think "hmm..i wonder.." Do I take any medication? No.

Don't blame drug companies for you falling into fear of being sick. Don't blame drug companies for parents medicating their kids because they don't want to deal with them being hyper. Companies sell products people want. People have shown they're stupid enough to buy certain drugs. So companies sell them. If I could make ADHD drugs and anti-depressants disappear with a thought I would.

No one was ADHD 30 years ago. Kids were just hyper and needed to do stuff to burn off energy. Or get popped in the butt and told to shut up, sit down, and study. And people who were depressed either got over it or killed themselves. I've experienced first hand what happens when anti-depressants are given to people who just need to deal with life.

RE: We need more MITs
By FITCamaro on 12/16/2008 12:42:46 PM , Rating: 2
I won't pretend that I think medication ISN'T* out of control here.

RE: We need more MITs
By Klober on 12/16/2008 4:30:44 PM , Rating: 2
13.4%, or $31.5 billion... uh huh... Because those numbers are really negligible?

Don't get me wrong here, I'm not defending the drug companies for spending more on advertising than they do on R&D (I would prefer more money went to R&D as well), but let's put the stated amounts into perspective. As a preface, the profits I state are gross profits, which is why I also site the total revenue for each company and a percentage of that.

$750 million was spent developing the Chevy Volt ( ).

HP spends ~3.6 billion annually on R&D - ~13% of their profit, but only ~3.2% of their income ( ).

Western Digital Corp spends $.5 billion annually on R&D - 27.5% of their profit, but only ~6% of their income ( ).

Honda spends ~508,426 billion yen (~$6.4 billion USD) - ~17.3% of their profit, but only ~4.9% of their income ( ).

AMD spends ~$1.8 billion annually on R&D - ~28.2% of their profit, but only ~6% of their income ( ).

Finally, let's look at IBM and Intel, both R&D powerhouses.

IBM spends ~$6.4 billion annually on R&D - ~14% of their profit, but only ~6% of their income ( ).

Intel Corp spends about ~$5.9 billion annually on R&D - ~25.9% of their profit, but only ~14.7% of their income ( ) - the only company out of my examples to spend more percentage-wise than the drug companies.

I'm sure you're thinking, "Oh, well, how much are those companies bringing in compared to $235 billion?" Well, here's your answer:

Company - Profit - Income
HP - ~$27.7B - ~$113B
WDC - ~$1.8B - ~$8.4B
Honda - ~$36.9B - ~$129.9B
AMD - ~$3B - ~$6.4B
IBM - ~$45.7B - ~$105.5B
Intel - ~19.7B - ~$40B

Still think the amount the drug companies are spending on R&D is "minimum"? Looks to me like there's a good chance they're putting at least as high, if not higher, of a percentage of their operating funds into R&D than other companies.

Also, I agree with FIT's post above. Prescription drug dependance and use in this country is far out of control. :)

RE: We need more MITs
By Regs on 12/19/2008 1:20:20 PM , Rating: 2
There is a higher degree of risk involved in drug manufacturing compared to technology. It's a highly regulated industry from marketing, research, patent litigation, distribution, and advertising. Part of the problem is drugs are usually in research for more than 5 years however federal laws and regulations change constantly every year. The largest risk they face is compliance. The most successful pharmaceutical company's have to be at least 99% compliant (based on third party benchmarks). There is little room for error in this industry when it comes to regulations. Can you imagine working on a product for 10 years, billions of dollars and man hours, only to have it shut out of the consumer market from the FDA for non-compliance in it's early development stage?

You're right that Pharmaceutical manufacturing co's have little incentive to cure larger and more wide spread disease, but not because "cures" diminish sales; that's paranoia rhetoric. If a company came out with a cure for cancer and had a 12-15 year patent on it, they could likely buy their own country by the end of it's product life cycle. If they are developing a cure for cancer, which I'm sure some are, than think about the risks involved. They have to be 100% compliant from the birth of the project, pass clinical trials, onto marketing. Billions of dollars later, 100 people out of 5 million with different DNA, allergies, and chemistry have adverse effects to it.

By BladeVenom on 12/15/2008 5:32:54 PM , Rating: 3
Carbon nanotubes are fast becoming one of the ubiquitous technology components of the twenty-first century, much as plastics and silicon were in the last.

Only in news stories. I'm not seeing them everywhere.

"You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."

RE: ubiquitous?
By Madman Jasper on 12/15/2008 6:39:42 PM , Rating: 3

RE: ubiquitous?
By ThisSpaceForRent on 12/15/2008 11:59:39 PM , Rating: 2
Reminds me of the first time I saw an "automobile" or an electric lamp!

wild speculation
By bioorganic on 12/16/08, Rating: 0
"This is about the Internet.  Everything on the Internet is encrypted. This is not a BlackBerry-only issue. If they can't deal with the Internet, they should shut it off." -- RIM co-CEO Michael Lazaridis

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