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The trial is being conducted on patients with brain cancer. It may be possible to use "stem cell shielding" to protect the body from the damaging effects of chemotherapy, early results from a US trial suggest. Chemotherapy drugs try to kill rapidly dividing cancer cells, but they can also affect other healthy tissues such as bone marrow. A study, in Science Translational Medicine, used genetically modified stem cells to protect the bone marrow. Cancer Research UK said it was a "completely new approach". The body constantly churns out new blood cells in the hollow spaces inside bone. However, bone marrow is incredibly susceptible to chemotherapy. The treatment results in fewer white blood cells being produced, which increases the risk of infection, and fewer red blood cells, which leads to shortness of breath and tiredness. Researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, in Seattle, said these effects were "a major barrier" to using chemotherapy and often meant the treatment had to be stopped, delayed or reduced.

'Protective shields'
They have tried to protect the bone marrow in three patients with a type of brain cancer, glioblastoma. One of the researchers, Dr Jennifer Adair, said: "This therapy is analogous to firing at both tumour cells and bone marrow cells, but giving the bone marrow cells protective shields while the tumour cells are unshielded." Bone marrow was taken from the patients and stem cells, which produce blood, were isolated. A virus was then used to infect the cells with a gene which protected the cells against a chemotherapy drug. The cells were then put back into the patient. The lead author of the report, Prof Hans-Peter Kiem, said: "We found that patients were able to tolerate the chemotherapy better, and without negative side effects, after transplantation of the gene-modified stem cells than patients in previous studies who received the same type of chemotherapy without a transplant of gene-modified stem cells." The researchers said the three patients had all lived longer than the average survival time of 12 months for the cancer. They said one patient was still alive 34 months after treatment. Cancer Research UK scientist Prof Susan Short said: "This is a very interesting study and a completely new approach to protecting normal cells during cancer treatment. "It needs to be tested in more patients but it may mean that we can use temozolomide (a chemotherapy drug) for more brain tumour patients than we previously thought. "This approach could also be a model for other situations where the bone marrow is affected by cancer treatment."

Better than antibiotics, it is being used in contact lenses to prevent infections and biomedical products are the next stageThe superbugs have met their match. Conceived at Nanyang Technological University (NTU), it comes in the form of a coating which has a magnetic-like feature that attracts bacteria and kills them without the need for antibiotics. The killer coating, which has shown to destroy 99 per cent of the bacteria and fungi that it comes in contact with, is now being used by two companies: a contact lens manufacturer and a company specialising in animal care products. The next step is to extend its use in a wide range of biomedical and consumer products, ranging from implants and surgical instruments to kitchen utensils and cutlery, as it is harmless to human cells. This is an alternative solution which could replace antibiotics - currently the main defence against bacteria - now powerless against super bugs. The brainchild of Professor Mary Chan, Acting Chair of NTU’s School of Chemical and Biomedical Engineering, the coating made from Dimethyldecylammonium Chitosan methacrylate has earned a place in the prestigious international journal, Nature Materials. This “sponge-like” polymer holds a positive charge, which acts as a magnet-type of force to draw in bacteria which has a negative charge on their cell walls. When the bacterium comes in contact with the coating, the cell walls are ‘sucked’ into the nanopores, causing the cell to rupture, thus killing the bacterium. “The coating can also be applied on biomedical objects, such as catheters and implants to prevent bacterial infections, which is a serious cause of concern as many bacteria are now developing resistance to antibiotics - currently our main source of treatment for infections,” Prof Chan said. “By developing novel materials which uses physical interaction to kill bacteria cells, we envisage this can be an alternative form of treatment for bacterial infections in the near future.” Superbugs which had fallen prey to the coating include Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which can cause infections in the upper respiratory tract, gastrointestinal tract and the urinary tract; and Staphylococcus aureus, which can cause infections ranging from skin boils or abscesses to deadly diseases such as pneumonia and meningitis. This research for a broad-spectrum antimicrobial coating was first sparked off by Prof Chan wanting to find an effective way to combat bacteria and fungi on contact lenses which could cause corneal infections (microbial keratitis) that could lead to permanent visual damage. According to a 2006 study, the estimated annual incidence of a common fungi corneal infection, Fusarium keratitis, related to contact lens wear in Singapore is 2.35 per 10,000 wearers. Building on the success of the antibacterial coating, Prof Chan and her doctoral student, Mr Li Peng, have now succeeded in making another broad-spectrum antimicrobial solution of a similar kind which is highly selective, killing off only bacteria and fungi without harming human cells In vitro. Their research was published recently in a leading journal, Advanced Materials. This liquid material based on cationic antimicrobial peptidopolysaccharide, is a polymer which is attracted to microbial cell walls. When the two come into contact, the integrity of the cell wall is disrupted which leads to its rupture and death. As this novel material kills cells via the destruction of cell walls, it makes it extremely difficult for bacteria to develop an effective resistance. Prof Chan hopes to further develop this solution into topical applications such as cream and lotions, which can be used to disinfect and treat serious or chronic wounds such as lesions suffered by diabetic patients, killing any bacteria present that are resistant to antibiotics. “Our long term goal is to develop this into an ingestible form, so it can effectively treat bacterial infections within the body, such as pneumonia and meningitis, replacing antibiotics as the standard treatment.” she added. The two antimicrobial prototypes - the coating and the liquid solution - took a total of five years to research and costs over $800,000 to develop. Prof Chan now aims to improve the liquid solution by developing it into a safe and proven antibiotic replacement within the next five years as the demand for such alternatives will be even higher with the rapid emergence of superbugs.
Nanyang Technological University

A team of MIT researchers has developed a way of making a high-temperature version of photonic crystals, using metals such as tungsten or tantalum. The new materials — which can operate at temperatures up to 1200 degrees Celsius — could find a wide variety of applications powering portable electronic devices, spacecraft to probe deep space, and new infrared light emitters that could be used as chemical detectors and sensors. Compared to earlier attempts to make high-temperature photonic crystals, the new approach is “higher performance, simpler, robust and amenable to inexpensive large-scale production,” says Ivan Celanovic ScD ’06, senior author of a paper describing the work in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The paper was co-authored by MIT professors John Joannopoulos and Marin Soljacic, graduate students Yi Xiang Yeng and Walker Chen, affiliate Michael Ghebrebrhan and former postdoc Peter Bermel. “These new high-temperature, two-dimensional photonic crystals can be fabricated almost entirely using standard microfabrication techniques and existing equipment for manufacturing computer chips,” says Celanovic, a research engineer at MIT’s Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies. While there are natural photonic crystals — such as opals, whose iridescent colours result from a layered structure with a scale comparable to wavelengths of visible light — the current work involved a nanoengineered material tailored for the infrared range. All photonic crystals have a lattice of one kind of material interspersed with open spaces or a complementary material, so that they selectively allow certain wavelengths of light to pass through while others are absorbed. When used as emitters, they can selectively radiate certain wavelengths while strongly suppressing others. Photonic crystals that can operate at very high temperatures could open up a suite of potential applications, including devices for solar-thermal conversion or solar-chemical conversion, radioisotope-powered devices, hydrocarbon-powered generators or components to wring energy from waste heat at powerplants or industrial facilities. But there have been many obstacles to creating such materials: the high temperatures can lead to evaporation, diffusion, corrosion, cracking, melting or rapid chemical reactions of the crystals’ nanostructures. To overcome these challenges, the MIT team used computationally guided design to create a structure from high-purity tungsten, using a geometry specifically designed to avoid damage when the material is heated. NASA has taken an interest in the research because of its potential to provide long-term power for deep-space missions that cannot rely on solar power. These missions typically use radioisotope thermal generators (RTGs), which harness the power of a small amount of radioactive material. For example, the new Curiosity rover scheduled to arrive at Mars this summer uses an RTG system; it will be able to operate continuously for many years, unlike solar-powered rovers that have to hunker down for the winter when solar power is insufficient. Other potential applications include more efficient ways of powering portable electronic devices. Instead of batteries, these devices could run on thermophotovoltaic generators that produce electricity from heat that is chemically generated by microreactors, from a fuel such as butane. For a given weight and size, such systems could allow these devices to run up to 10 times longer than they do with existing batteries, Celanovic says. Shawn Lin, a professor of physics at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute who specializes in future chip-making technology, says that research on thermal radiation at high temperatures “continues to challenge our scientific understanding of the various emission processes at sub-wavelength scales, and our technological capability.” Lin, who was not involved in this work, adds, “This particular 2-D tungsten photonic crystal is quite unique, as it is easier to fabricate and also very robust against high-temperature operation. This photonic-crystal design should find important application in solar-thermal energy-conversion systems.” While it’s always hard to predict how long it will take for advances in basic science to lead to commercial products, Celanovic says he and his colleagues are already working on system integration and testing applications. There could be products based on this technology in as little as two years, he says, and most likely within five years. In addition to producing power, the same photonic crystal can be used to produce precisely tuned wavelengths of infrared light. This could enable highly accurate spectroscopic analysis of materials and lead to sensitive chemical detectors, he says. The research was partly supported by the Army Research Office through the Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies, NASA and an MIT Energy Initiative seed grant, as well as by TeraGrid resources and the MIT S3TEC Energy Research Frontier Center of the U.S. Department of Energy.



A reaction best known for the attractive swirling patterns it produces in a Petri dish is more than just a pretty face, chemists in Japan have shown. The researchers have found that the oscillating chemical waves of the Belousov-Zhabotinsky reaction are strong enough to carry a cargo, driving it along a length of smart polymer tubing using contractions - just like an intestine. Belousov-Zhabotinsky reactions were first discovered in the 1950s and are an eye-catching example of a chemical mixture out of thermodynamic equilibrium. As the reaction's colourful components oscillate from starting material to product and then back again, spirals radiate across the Petri dish as the different components diffuse through the reaction mixture. To put the Belousov-Zhabotinsky reaction to work, Yusuke Shiraki and Ryo Yoshida at the University of Tokyo have incorporated a key component, the ruthenium catalyst, into an N-isopropylacrylamide polymer gel. When the researchers drop this gel into a solution of malonic acid, sodium bromate and nitric acid, the oscillating reaction mixture causes muscle-like contractions to travel in waves through the gel. The phenomenon is driven by redox swings in the reaction mixture, as ruthenium(II) is first oxidised to ruthenium(III) by bromate and reduced back again by malonic acid. Because ruthenium(III) increases the polymer's hydrophobicity, the gel swells at that point. Ryo first harnessed the Belousov-Zhabotinsky reaction within a smart polymer in the mid-1990s. At the time he was studying responsive polymer gels that reacted to external stimuli such as temperature change or pH change, for applications such as drug delivery systems and actuators. 'I thought it would be very interesting if I can cause periodical swelling-deswelling of gels without any on-off switching of external stimuli,' he says.

Driving reaction
The redox swings of the Belousov-Zhabotinsky reaction turned out to be ideal for driving the process. 'So far we have already achieved the oscillation on several scales between nanometre and centimetre, from polymer chain to bulk gel,' Ryo says. The team's latest research shows that by coating the ruthenium-impregnated polymer onto the internal surface of a glass capillary, they can form a tubular self-oscillating gel that swells and shrinks in waves. Stripping away the glass template using hydrofluoric acid, and immersing the tube in the Belousov-Zhabotinsky mixture, the team showed that the tube's peristaltic motion could drive a bubble through the tubing. 'It's a logical extension of the work that these researchers have done before with oscillating gels - this time potentially putting it to good use,' says Geoffrey Spinks, who researches polymer-based actuators and sensors at the Intelligent Polymer Research Institute at Wollongong University, Australia. 'You could see clearly a directional pumping action inside these tubes, moving fluids and bubbles at a controlled speed.' The most immediate use for the material could be within lab-on-a-chip devices. 'Autonomous mechanical pumping systems in microchannels to transport an inner fluid or materials might be the most realistic application,' says Ryo. So far, the researchers have only demonstrated that the reaction mixture itself can be pumped along the tube, but it should be possible to modify the polymer so that the Belousov-Zhabotinsky reaction mixture fuelling the process sits outside of the tubing and another liquid is pumped through the centre. 'It seems logical that you could overcome that problem,' says Spinks. 'For microfluidic, lab-on-a-chip type applications, this would be pretty useful, because the tubes act as the plumbing but also as a pump, so you don't need a separate pumping chamber,' he says. In the longer term, the gel tubing's autonomous peristaltic pumping motion also hints at other potential applications. 'The intriguing part is, can it also eventually have medical applications, used as intestines or arteries and so-on,' Spinks says. In the meantime, Ryo is working on more practical considerations. 'The next step is to design the chemical and physical structure of the gel more precisely for more effective oscillation,' he says.

Effects of curcumin in chemotherapy investigated by University of Leicester
COMPOUNDS found in curry are being investigated as a way of improving drug response in patients with advanced bowel cancer. Scientists at the Cancer Research UK and National Institute for Health Research Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre (ECMC) in Leicester will investigate whether tablets containing curcumin – found in the spice turmeric – can be safely added to the standard treatment for bowel cancer that has spread. Earlier studies have shown that curcumin can enhance the ability of chemotherapy to kill bowel cancer cells in the lab. The trial is being funded by Hope Against Cancer, The Royal College of Surgeons and the Bowel Disease Research Foundation. Patients with advanced bowel cancer are usually given a treatment called FOLFOX, which combines three chemotherapy drugs. But around 40-60 per cent of patients don’t respond and, of those who do, side effects such as severe tingling or nerve pain can limit the number of cycles patients can have. Chief investigator Professor William Steward, ECMC director at the University of Leicester, said: “Once bowel cancer has spread it is very difficult to treat, partly because the side effects of chemotherapy can limit how long patients can have treatment. The prospect that curcumin might increase the sensitivity of cancer cells to chemotherapy is exciting because it could mean giving lower doses, so patients have fewer side effects and can keep having treatment for longer. “This research is at a very early stage, but investigating the potential of plant chemicals to treat cancer is an intriguing area that we hope could provide clues to developing new drugs in the future.” Around 40 patients with bowel cancer that has spread to the liver will be recruited to take part in the study at Leicester Royal Infirmary and Leicester General Hospital. Three quarters of these will be given curcumin tablets for seven days, before being treated with FOLFOX. The remainder will receive FOLFOX only. Colin Carroll, a 62-year-old compliance consultant from near Loughborough, agreed to take part in the trial after being diagnosed with advanced bowel cancer in January. “The diagnosis came as a big shock because I’d had no symptoms apart from some occasional cramps,” said Colin. “I’d had a few tests which had come back clear and I’d just been booked for a CT scan when I was rushed to hospital with a suspected intestinal blockage.” Scans showed Colin had bowel cancer which had spread to his liver and, three days after being admitted to Leicester Royal Infirmary, he underwent an emergency ileostomy to bypass the blockage. “It’s been like a whirlwind,” said Colin who will need to undergo chemotherapy until mid-August. “To have something creep up on you like that when you have absolutely no control over it really makes you want to fight back. That’s why I had no difficulty in agreeing to take part in the trial. “I’ve met some amazing people since January and my treatment on the NHS has been fantastic. The way I see it is that I’m being given the best possible chance so in that sense I feel very fortunate.” Dr Joanna Reynolds, Cancer Research UK’s director of centres, said: “The Experimental Cancer Medicine Centres Network supports research into some of the most novel and exciting new anti-cancer therapies, often providing the first insights into their effect on cancer patients. By doing a clinical trial like this we will find out more about the potential benefits of taking large amounts of curcumin, as well as any possible side effects this could have for cancer patients.”
University of Leicester


PHOTONIS USA was awarded a patent for the manufacture of resistive glass tubes with non-linear gradient electrical resistance changes. The patented process can be used to create a solid-piece reflectron lens for use in reflectron-type time of flight mass spectrometers. Reflectron lenses are used in Time-of-Flight (TOF) mass spectrometers to create an electrostatic field to alter ion flow, providing for a longer flight path and therefore greater resolution. Current reflectron-type TOF-MS instruments use complex multi-piece stacked ring assemblies which carry time-consuming assembly and cleaning processes. They also require the use of a voltage divider in each layer to reverse ion direction. A reflectron lens made with resistive glass provides a solid assembly replacement for a stacked ring assembly yet provides the same ability to alter ion flow, becoming a form-fit-function replacement for the multi-piece stacked ring assemblies. Additionally, the solid resistive glass piece provides for simpler cleaning and replacement. Resistive glass is manufactured in a patented process that creates an electric field to guide or direct charged particles. It consists of alkali-doped lead silicate glass that has been reduced to make the surface a semiconductor.

SFC Fluidics, LLC (Fayetteville, AR) a microfluidic device development company, introduced its portable low-pressure liquid chromatography system (LPLC) at Pittcon 2012. Branded Handy-LCTM, the device exemplifies the promise of total device miniaturization. Roughly the size of a small shoebox, Handy-LC can be used anywhere to conduct real-time separation of complex samples and is perfect for LPLC applications, such as affinity chromatography or size exclusion chromatography. Handy-LC is the latest in a series of miniaturized analytical and diagnostic devices developed by SFC Fluidics that incorporates the company’s patented microfluidic components: ePump® and QuickConnectTM. ePump® can be customized for OEM applications and provides pulse-free flow in the 10 nL/min to 200 µL/min flow rate range.

RETSCH have extended their range of cutting mills by a new model which combines powerful size reduction with very easy handling. The new cutting mill SM 300 can be perfectly adapted to many different – and also difficult - size reduction tasks thanks to the variable speed from 700 to 3,000 rpm and a very high torque. This mill tackles heterogeneous sample mixtures without any problems! Another advantage of the SM 300 is the easy access to the grinding chamber for cleaning: the housing is simply folded back and the push-fit rotor can be removed without tools. This only takes a few seconds. The cutting mill SM 300 can be equipped with a wide range of accessories, among them a version for heavy-metal-free sample preparation.

Alpha MOS announces the launch of an artifical eye named IRIS Visual Analyser dedicated to visual and sensory analysis. Already a specialist of odour and taste digitalisation, Alpha MOS innovates once again: with this new instrument, the electronic eye, the company strengthens its range of sensory analysis instruments. The newly developed IRIS Visual Analyser is aimed at analyzing complex food and packaging products (pizzas, cookies, ready-made meals, grains mixtures, etc…). The specificity of the instrument is to proceed in a way similar to human visual perception: a detection system (in this case a CCD camera) analyzes colors or shapes, transmit the signals to a computing system and compares them to a standard or a defined pattern. The company explains that thanks to the camera that takes a picture of one or several samples simultaneously, this Electronic Eye analyzes the surface of each sample (colour, surface) in a few seconds. In-depth analysis of complex images is achieved thanks to advanced multivariate statistics processing (Principal Component Analysis, Discriminant Factorial Analysis, Statistical Quality Control).

AB SCIEX has announced the introduction of the AB SCIEX 4500 series, which is next-generation, mass spectrometry instrumentation that sets a new benchmark for routine quantitation and screening. The AB SCIEX TripleQuadTM 4500 System is a new triple quadrupole system that delivers 10x better sensitivity over competitive triple quadrupole systems in the same mid-level class. AB SCIEX is also delivering the 4500 system with the option of QTRAP® technology, which is recognized as delivering the world's leading solution for simultaneous quantitation and library searching. The proprietary QTRAP® system increases full-scan sensitivity by 100x over basic triple quadrupoles by incorporating the world's most sensitive Linear AcceleratorTM Trap, providing unmatched levels of confidence in results for screening applications”.

Senova Systems introduced the first calibration-free pH meter: The pHit™ scanner at Pittcon 2012. The company explains that pHit is a revolutionary new pH sensor platform which replaces current glass electrodes with solid state smart sensors that contain no glass, require no user calibration and can be stored dry. These and other important features of the pHit platform make it a perfect “fit” for a myriad of important process, research, educational, and medical applications.

At Pittcon 2012, Bruker Corporation announced several new product introductions for the research, industrial and applied markets, designed to deliver confident analyses with increased sensitivity, specificity and productivity, and to push the boundaries of advanced molecular and materials research applications. MICRO™ Series is a new high-flux Small (SAXS) and Wide Angle X-ray Scattering (WAXS) system, intended for research, development and quality control in bio-medical and pharmaceutical applications. The company explains that utilizing an air-cooled high-brilliance micro-focus X-ray source, it provides superior performance beyond widely used rotating anode sources, while avoiding complexity, significant maintenance, and operating costs.

Shimadzu introduces the SALD-2300 Laser Diffraction Particle Size Analyser, which measures the size and distribution of particles. The particle size distribution of raw powdered materials is known to have a significant effect on the performance and function of pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, foods, rechargeable batteries, and other finished products, and is an important quality control element. As measurement needs are expanding in a variety of fields and domains, Shimadzu has extended the measurement range from 30 nm to 1,000 µm to 17 nm to 2,500 µm, and developed an instrument that can easily perform highly efficient, sophisticated measurements. The company adds that by increasing the sensitivity by a factor of ten over our conventional models, this system accommodates a wide range of particle concentration conditions, from a low concentration 0.1 ppm to high concentrations of 200,000 ppm.

Peak Scientific introduces the Genius² 3010 Nitrogen Generator, designed specifically as a stand-alone system to provide gas to single LCMS applications which require a high nitrogen flow. The company refers that standard and somplete service plans is available.