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  • Writer's pictureKirk Hartley

Delivering More Proof of Nanoscale Events Involving Cells

(Super-sensitive nanocrystals enable the micro-structured optical fibre to remotely detect and track the movement of a single nanocrystal. The image is copyrighted by and courtesy of Dr Mathieu Juan, and Macquarie University)

More on nanoscale technology, biomarkers, and examples of impacts that are arriving. Last week’s Sunday post covered a new nanoscale DNA "cage" that can trap a "small molecule." This week’s post follows up by describing new technology that will give researchers far more freedom to quickly and efficiently observe and measure whether a nanoscale delivery reached and entered the intended targets.

The news now is a new paper that demonstrates a method by which researchers can readily see a single cell react at a nanoscale level without using a big clumsy device. Instead, the new technology lets researchers use light fibers and nano crystals to look inside and measure incredibly tiny changes inside, for example, a mouse.

The technology is referred to under the name of "SuperDots." They utilize light fibers and nano crystals. Using these light fibers and nano crystals, researchers may watch events inside an embryo, a vein, or a brain. With access to actually observe and measure reactions, they can depend less on just reasoning and inferring about what they believe is happening. The researchers instead can efficiently and quickly observe and measure. Researchers might, for example, observe that the nanoscale DNA cage delivery vehicle succeeded in dropping of a small molecule next to a cancer cell, and that the small molecule indeed went inside the target cell. Really! Check out the video here.

For lawyers, one key takeaway is that the future will bring more observation of and reporting of data, about cellular level activities and less observation of end results (the mouse died), followed by drawing inferences (we think the substance entered cell X and did y). In other words, the use of SuperDots will help to deliver more actual proof of what is or is not happening at a cellular level. That outcome will over time create profound effects on a wide range of subjects, including analyzing causation in tort litigation, legal arguments about the when and how of an "occurrence" for nsurance coverage litigation, as well as arguments about regulatory activities.

Set out below are key quotes from the University of Adelaide’s press release about the new paper explaining the work and the outcome:

"Researchers have made a breakthrough discovery in identifying the world’s most sensitive nanoparticle and measuring it from a distance using light. These super-bright, photostable and background-free nanocrystals enable a new approach to highly advanced sensing technologies using optical fibres.

This discovery, by a team of researchers from Macquarie University, the University of Adelaide, and Peking University, opens the way for rapid localisation and measurement of cells within a living environment at the nanoscale, such as the changes to a single living cell in the human body in response to chemical signals.

Published in Nature Nanotechnology , the research outlines a new approach to advanced sensing that has been facilitated by bringing together a specific form of nanocrystal, or "SuperDotTM" with a special kind of optical fibre that enables light to interact with tiny (nanoscale) volumes of liquid.

"Up until now, measuring a single nanoparticle would have required placing it inside a very bulky and expensive microscope," says Professor Tanya Monro, Director of the University of Adelaide’s Institute for Photonics and Advanced Sensing (IPAS) and ARC Australian Laureate Fellow. "For the first time, we’ve been able to detect a single nanoparticle at one end of an optical fibre from the other end. That opens up all sorts of possibilities in sensing."

"This advance ultimately paves the way to breakthroughs in medical treatment. For example, measuring a cell’s reaction in real time to a cancer drug means doctors could tell at the time treatment is being delivered whether or not a person is responding to the therapy."

Macquarie University is now actively seeking partners with the capacity to jointly develop solutions outside of these fields. Minomic International presents one of the commercial possibilities

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