A maturing embryonic red blood cell (8μm) before it has lost its nucleus (Waugh Lab)
The science of nanotechnology involves the development of new materials with dimensions on the order of tens to a few hundreds of nanometers. Bigger than what we normally consider
molecules and smaller than bulk materials, nanomaterials have emergent properties that are a direct result of their size. These new materials are proving to have a broad range of applications in medicine and basic biological research. Project areas include:
- Nanostructured materials for biological sensing
- Efforts towards characterizing the entire genomes and proteomes of humans and other organisms have unleashed a flood of new protein and nucleic acid targets on the biomedical research community, and have made the development of new ways of detecting and quantitating these targets rapidly and simply an urgent need. Researchers are using nanostructured materials as substrates for the production of new biomedical sensors, which may prove useful as components of medical diagnostic systems.
- Nanoporous membranes
- Researchers at Rochester recently discovered a novel silicon membrane with well-defined, tunable nanometer-sized pores. Because this membrane is also exceptionally thin, it has the potential to dramatically improve the efficiency and speed of size-based biofiltration. Researchers are examining the basic properties of this new material, as well as ways in which it can be incorporated into biomedical devices.
- Nanoparticle-based drug delivery
- Delivery of therapeutic agents to target sites in the body is a continuing challenge. Polymer nanoparticles are proving to be one useful method for encapsulating therapeutics and delivering them in an effective manner. Projects in this area involve the creation of new polymer nanomaterials, and examining their ability to deliver small-molecule or biopolymeric agents.
- Imaging, transport, and toxicity properties of semiconductor nanocrystals
- Semiconductor nanocrystals, or
quantum dots, are proving to be very useful as new reagents for biomedical imaging. Nanocrystals are also finding their way into numerous consumer products. However, little is yet known about the interactions of these materials with biological tissues, and their eventual fate in the body. Projects center on the development and application of new nanocrystal-based reagents, as well as on evaluating their transport properties through tissues.
- In recent years, through efforts in single molecule force spectroscopy, the role of mechanics at the molecular and cellular level have been shown to play a critical role in biology. Researchers employ the atomic force microscope, optical
tweezers,bioforce probe and microcantilevers to study the mechanics which serve to influence life at the sub-cellular level.