This is a good general introductory video to nano gold but I have two caveats. It’s very ‘hypey’ (as in hyperbolic) and, as of 2023, it’s eight years old. The information still looks pretty good (after all it was produced by Nature magazine) but should you be watching this five years from now, the situation may have changed. (h/t January 5, 2023 news item on Nanowerk)
The video, which includes information about how nano gold can be used to deliver nanomedicines, is embedded in Morteza Mahmoudi’s (Assistant Professor of Radiology, Michigan State University) January 5, 2023 essay on The Conversation about a lack of research on how the body reacts to nanomedicines, Note: Links have been removed,
Nanomedicines took the spotlight during the COVID-19 pandemic. Researchers are using these very small and intricate materials to develop diagnostic tests and treatments. Nanomedicine is already used for various diseases, such as the COVID-19 vaccines and therapies for cardiovascular disease. The “nano” refers to the use of particles that are only a few hundred nanometers in size, which is significantly smaller than the width of a human hair.
Although researchers have developed several methods to improve the reliability of nanotechnologies, the field still faces one major roadblock: a lack of a standardized way to analyze biological identity, or how the body will react to nanomedicines. This is essential information in evaluating how effective and safe new treatments are.
I’m a researcher studying overlooked factors in nanomedicine development. In our recently published research, my colleagues and I found that analyses of biological identity are highly inconsistent across proteomics facilities that specialize in studying proteins.
Mahmoudi’s January 5, 2023 essay describes testing a group of laboratories’ analyses of samples he and his team submitted to them (Note: Links have been removed),
We wanted to test how consistently these proteomics facilities analyzed protein corona samples. To do this, my colleagues and I sent biologically identical protein coronas to 17 different labs in the U.S. for analysis.
We had striking results: Less than 2% of the proteins the labs identified were the same.
Our results reveal an extreme lack of consistency in the analyses researchers use to understand how nanomedicines work in the body. This may pose a significant challenge not only to ensuring the accuracy of diagnostics, but also the effectiveness and safety of treatments based on nanomedicines.
… my team and I have identified several critical but often overlooked factors that can influence the performance of a nanomedicine, such as a person’s sex, prior medical conditions and disease type. …
Mahmoudi is pointing out that it’s very early days for nanomedicines and there’s a lot of work still be done.
Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper Mahmoudi and his team had published on this topic,
How are they planning to make people cry on command or use a swab on your eyeball? In general, I like the idea of using tears instead of other bodily secretions but it’s the practicalities that have me questioning how this kind of diagnostic test could be implemented. In any event, here’s more from a July 20, 2022 news item on phys.org,
Going to the doctor might make you want to cry, and according to a new study, doctors could someday put those tears to good use. In ACS Nano, researchers report a nanomembrane system that harvests and purifies tiny blobs called exosomes from tears, allowing researchers to quickly analyze them for disease biomarkers. Dubbed iTEARS, the platform could enable more efficient and less invasive molecular diagnoses for many diseases and conditions, without relying solely on symptoms.
Diagnosing diseases often hinges on assessing a patient’s symptoms, which can be unobservable at early stages, or unreliably reported. Identifying molecular clues in samples from patients, such as specific proteins or genes from vesicular structures called exosomes, could improve the accuracy of diagnoses. However, current methods for isolating exosomes from these samples require long, complicated processing steps or large sample volumes. Tears are well-suited for sample collection because the fluid can be collected quickly and non-invasively, though only tiny amounts can be harvested at a time. So, Luke Lee, Fei Liu and colleagues wondered if a nanomembrane system, which they originally developed for isolating exosomes from urine and plasma, could allow them to quickly obtain these vesicles from tears and then analyze them for disease biomarkers.
The team modified their original system to handle the low volume of tears. The new system, called “Incorporated Tear Exosomes Analysis via Rapid-isolation System” (iTEARS), separated out exosomes in just 5 minutes by filtering tear solutions over nanoporous membranes with an oscillating pressure flow to reduce clogging. Proteins from the exosomes could be tagged with fluorescent probes while they were still on the device and then transferred to other instruments for further analysis. Nucleic acids were also extracted from the exosomes and analyzed. The researchers successfully distinguished between healthy controls and patients with various types of dry eye disease based on a proteomic assessment of extracted proteins. Similarly, iTEARS enabled researchers to observe differences in microRNAs between patients with diabetic retinopathy and those that didn’t have the eye condition, suggesting that the system could help track disease progression. The team says that this work could lead to a more sensitive, faster and less invasive molecular diagnosis of various diseases — using only tears.
An August 25, 2021 news item on ScienceDaily announced research that will allow more direct communication between cells and computers,
Genetically encoded reporter proteins have been a mainstay of biotechnology research, allowing scientists to track gene expression, understand intracellular processes and debug engineered genetic circuits.
But conventional reporting schemes that rely on fluorescence and other optical approaches come with practical limitations that could cast a shadow over the field’s future progress. Now, researchers at the University of Washington and Microsoft have created a “nanopore-tal” into what is happening inside these complex biological systems, allowing scientists to see reporter proteins in a whole new light.
The team introduced a new class of reporter proteins that can be directly read by a commercially available nanopore sensing device. The new system ― dubbed “Nanopore-addressable protein Tags Engineered as Reporters” or “NanoporeTERs” ― can detect multiple protein expression levels from bacterial and human cell cultures far beyond the capacity of existing techniques.
“NanoporeTERs offer a new and richer lexicon for engineered cells to express themselves and shed new light on the factors they are designed to track. They can tell us a lot more about what is happening in their environment all at once,” said co-lead author Nicolas Cardozo, a doctoral student with the UW Molecular Engineering and Sciences Institute. “We’re essentially making it possible for these cells to ‘talk’ to computers about what’s happening in their surroundings at a new level of detail, scale and efficiency that will enable deeper analysis than what we could do before.”
For conventional labeling methods, researchers can track only a few optical reporter proteins, such as green fluorescent protein, simultaneously because of their overlapping spectral properties. For example, it’s difficult to distinguish between more than three different colors of fluorescent proteins at once. In contrast, NanoporeTERs were designed to carry distinct protein “barcodes” composed of strings of amino acids that, when used in combination, allow at least ten times more multiplexing possibilities.
These synthetic proteins are secreted outside of a cell into the surrounding environment, where researchers can collect and analyze them using a commercially available nanopore array. Here, the team used the Oxford Nanopore Technologies MinION device.
The researchers engineered the NanoporeTER proteins with charged “tails” so that they can be pulled into the nanopore sensors by an electric field. Then the team uses machine learning to classify the electrical signals for each NanoporeTER barcode in order to determine each protein’s output levels.
“This is a fundamentally new interface between cells and computers,” said senior author Jeff Nivala, a UW research assistant professor in the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering. “One analogy I like to make is that fluorescent protein reporters are like lighthouses, and NanoporeTERs are like messages in a bottle.
“Lighthouses are really useful for communicating a physical location, as you can literally see where the signal is coming from, but it’s hard to pack more information into that kind of signal. A message in a bottle, on the other hand, can pack a lot of information into a very small vessel, and you can send many of them off to another location to be read. You might lose sight of the precise physical location where the messages were sent, but for many applications that’s not going to be an issue.”
As a proof of concept, the team developed a library of more than 20 distinct NanoporeTERs tags. But the potential is significantly greater, according to co-lead author Karen Zhang, now a doctoral student in the UC Berkeley-UCSF bioengineering graduate program.
“We are currently working to scale up the number of NanoporeTERs to hundreds, thousands, maybe even millions more,” said Zhang, who graduated this year from the UW with bachelor’s degrees in both biochemistry and microbiology. “The more we have, the more things we can track.
“We’re particularly excited about the potential in single-cell proteomics, but this could also be a game-changer in terms of our ability to do multiplexed biosensing to diagnose disease and even target therapeutics to specific areas inside the body. And debugging complicated genetic circuit designs would become a whole lot easier and much less time-consuming if we could measure the performance of all the components in parallel instead of by trial and error.”
These researchers have made novel use of the MinION device before, when they developed a molecular tagging system to replace conventional inventory control methods. That system relied on barcodes comprising synthetic strands of DNA that could be decoded on demand using the portable reader.
This time, the team went a step farther.
“This is the first paper to show how a commercial nanopore sensor device can be repurposed for applications other than the DNA and RNA sequencing for which they were originally designed,” said co-author Kathryn Doroschak, a computational biologist at Adaptive Biotechnologies who completed this work as a doctoral student at the Allen School. “This is exciting as a precursor for nanopore technology becoming more accessible and ubiquitous in the future. You can already plug a nanopore device into your cell phone. I could envision someday having a choice of ‘molecular apps’ that will be relatively inexpensive and widely available outside of traditional genomics.”
Additional co-authors of the paper are Aerilynn Nguyen at Northeastern University and Zoheb Siddiqui at Amazon, both former UW undergraduate students; Nicholas Bogard at Patch Biosciences, a former UW postdoctoral research associate; Luis Ceze, an Allen School professor; and Karin Strauss, an Allen School affiliate professor and a senior principal research manager at Microsoft. This research was funded by the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health and a sponsored research agreement from Oxford Nanopore Technologies.
No, this talk does not not involve CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindormic repeats). This is about ‘old fashioned’ genetic breeding techniques with some ‘fancy pants’ words being thrown around. Also, somebody or other wants to patent this work on bees.
From a September 30, 2019 Café Scientifque announcement (received via email),
Our next café will happen on TUESDAY, OCTOBER 29TH at 7:30PM in the back room at YAGGER”S DOWNTOWN (433 W Pender). Our speaker for the evening will be DR. LEONARD FOSTER from the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at UBC [University of British Columbia].
BREEDING STRONGER BEES BY SHORTCUTTING NATURE
Dr. Leonard Foster’s laboratory at UBC has been involved in a Canada-wide project aimed at bringing modern molecular technologies to bear on the selective breeding of honey bees that are better able to resist disease and stress. They use molecular fingerprinting and genomics to identify stronger bees, enabling their selective breeding. This brings up several controversial topics, including whether these bees are “natural”, whether selectively bred bees could/should be patented and how far away direct genetic modification of honey bees will be. Dr. Foster will describe the state-of-the-art in bee genetics and where the future may lie here.
Dr. Leonard Foster is a Professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of British Columbia. Dr. Foster comes from a family of beekeepers and got his introduction to academic bee research at Simon Fraser University while doing his Bachelor’s degree in biochemistry – at SFU [Simon Fraser University] he worked with Drs. Winston [Mark Winston] and Slessor [Keith Slessor] on honey bee pheromones, particularly the components of queen mandibular pheromone. He then did a Ph.D in Toronto a post-doctoral studies in Denmark before starting his current position in 2005. The first independent operating grant that Dr. Foster secured was to study how bee pathogens were able to manipulate the protein machinery within bee cells. Since that time he has led three very large-scale projects that have investigated some of the molecular mechanisms behind disease resistance in bees. This effort has recently moved into trying to apply this knowledge by using the information they have learned to guide selective breeding for hygienic behavior in honey bees. He is very active in extension and frequently engages the public on various aspects of honey bee biology. He currently lives in Richmond and keeps bees himself.
We hope to see you there!
– Your Café Sci Vancouver Organizers
You can find out more about Leonard Foster and his work on this profile page on the University of British Columbia website, where I found this video,
One final comment, how are they going to patent a bee? For long time readers, it should be evident that I’m not a big fan of patents. They tend to impede research.
Today (May 7, 2019), I’m writing up a Canadian science hodge podge of a post.
From a sheep shearing festival in May to summer camps for kids: Ingenium’s Canadian science museums
Ingenium, for those who don’t know, is the corporate ‘parent’ for the Canada Science and Technology Museum, the Canada Aviation and Space Museum, and the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum. Confusingly, the ‘parent’ was once called the Canada Science and Technology Museums Corporation (CSTMC).
I recently featured the da Vinci exhibit (May 2 – September 2, 2019) being held at the Canada Science and Technology Museum in a May 1, 2019 posting (scroll down about 70% of the way). It seems now it’s time for the other two.
Canada Agriculture and Food Museum and its sheep (May) and kids’ summer camps
The Sheep Shearing Festival is being held in Ottawa on Victoria Day weekend but only on two days of the weekend, Saturday, May 18 and Sunday, May 19, 2019. Here’s more from festival webpage,
Sheep Shearing Festival
When: May 18, 2019 – May 19, 2019 Times: 9:30 am – 4:00 pm Fee: Included with admission Language: Bilingual
The Canada Agriculture and Food Museum presents the annual Sheep Shearing Festival. Visitors will be able to learn all about wool by participating in various activities and demonstrations. Visitors of all ages can attend sheep shearing, sheep herding and sheepdog agility demonstrations, as well as meeting an alpaca. They can also learn about carding and knitting, all important steps in the transformation of a raw fleece into wool. They can also see a craftsman doing traditional finger-weaving or spin the quiz wheel and test their knowledge about fibers from various sources. Visitors can enjoy cooking demonstrations that feature goat cheese as well as watch a classic movie. Keep an eye out for Little Bo Peep, who still needs help finding her sheep!
Note: The Festival is held on Saturday and Sunday but not the Monday of the long weekend. Regular May demonstrations will be in effect on Monday.
Activities: Sheep Shearing Demonstration The Art of Leather Sheepdog Agility Demonstration- weather permitting Sheep Herding Demonstration Goat Cheese and Herb Biscuits Family Movie Presentation Shawville 4-H Club Demonstration Felt Making Wool Carding Meet a Lamb and its Family Meet Yanni the Alpaca Children’s Craft Animal or Plant?” Quiz Finger Weaving Afternoon Milking Local Fiber artists and mini market Food Services ($) Wagon Rides ($) –weather permitting
With summer fast approaching, the moment has arrived for us to shear our sheep. Visitors can attend a sheep shearing demonstration, where they will see a professional sheep shearer at work as one of our dynamic guides explains the entire process
The Art of Leather(ongoing activity with a break between 12 p.m. and 1 p.m.)
There is more to leather than durable boots and stylish handbags – leather is a fascinating by-product! With expert artisan Lynn McNabb, visitors will be able to see how leather is prepared and how it can be ultimately crafted into beautiful and functional items.
Visitors will be enthralled by this demonstration performed by members of the “Ottawa Valley Border Collie Club”, who will captivate your attention with their Border Collies, who race through a course filled with obstacles of all sorts.
At this demonstration, visitors will see a shepherd and his specially trained dogs in action, as they work as a team to herd a flock of sheep.
Goat Cheese and Herb Biscuits (ongoing)
Did you know that goat’s milk is the most consumed milk in the world? Try a sample of our delicious goat cheese and herb biscuits.
Family Movie Presentation(English showing at 10:00 a.m. and French showing at 1:00 p.m.)
Join us for a classic movie presentation of the beloved film Babe. There will be popcorn for purchase and all proceeds go to the museum’s Youth Fund.
Shawville 4-H Club Demonstration (9:45 a.m., 11:45 a.m. and 1:45 p.m.)
Watch as the Shawville 4-H Club demonstrates how they train their 4-H farm animals and how they get them ready for showing and how they are evaluated. Meet and greet the animals and their trainers in between the demonstrations. This is a fun educational activity not to be missed!
Felt Making (ongoing activity)
With the help of a guide, visitors can make felt from a piece of sheep’s wool while discovering the history and science of the world’s oldest fabric.
Wool Carding (ongoing activity)
At this station, visitors can learn about carding, an important step in the transformation of wool. They can even try their hand at this activity with a pair of carders!
Meet a Lamb and its Family (ongoing activity)
Meet the sheep family and see who guards the sheep!
Meet Yanni the Alpaca (ongoing activity)
Visitors will meet an alpaca and learn all about this fascinating animal. They will learn about their life cycle, the reason we raise them on farms, as well as the particularities of their fleece.
Children’s Craft (ongoing activity)
Come join the fun with a themed sheep craft to take home.
“Animal or Plant?” Quiz (ongoing activity)
At this station, visitors will spin the wheel and test their knowledge about fibres from various sources. Will they know if the fibre comes from an animal or a plant?
Finger Weaving (ongoing activity)
Visitors will be able to see a craftsman doing some finger-weaving – a traditional craft that is used to make all sorts of products, including the famous arrow sash!
Afternoon Milking (4 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.)
The milking of the museum’s dairy cows takes place twice daily. Over the course of this demonstration, visitors will be impressed by the technologies used in modern dairying as they see the herdspeople milk the entire herd. A museum guide will be on site to explain the process and to answer questions.
Also… Local Fiber artists and mini market (ongoing activity) Willow Lane Alpacas Apple Road Goat Milk Soaps Janet Tulloch, artist Rebecca Dufton, artist SweetLegs Orleans with Sania
Food Services ($) The Hot Potato Company will be on site to offer food services.
Wagon Rides ($) (10 a.m. – 2 p.m.) weather permitting! Enjoy a tour through the fields of the Central Experimental Farm on the Tally-Ho wagon.
Summer camp at the farm
A series of week long summer camps at the Agriculture Museum’s famr are open to children whose parents thought to book ahead. The season starts on Monday, June 24, 2019 and ends Friday, August 23, 2019. Here’s more from the Summer Camps at the Farm webpage,
Bring the country to kids in the city with fascinating summer camps at the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum. Hands-on activities educate children while they care for the museum’s farm animals and gardens, cook foods, make crafts, and play games
Additional Information Camps must be pre-booked. A child is not allowed to be registered for more than one week of camp. However, a second week may be booked if this camp is Sprouting Chefs culinary camp. Ingenium reserves the right to cancel the registrations for any child booked into more than one agricultural camp at the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum. Children must be the required age by August 31, 2019. Counsellor-to-child ratio is a minimum of 1 to 8. One snack will be provided daily and lunch on Friday. Each child receives a camp T-shirt. You may cancel your registration up to two (2) weeks before the start of your camp week. There is a $30 fee for cancellations. No refunds will be issued for cancellations after the two week cut-off.
You may want to register soon as some the camp sessions are already sold out.
Canada Aviation and Space Museum features music and science summer camps
They have a shorter season running from July 2 – August 23, 2019 and, yes, one session is already sold out. Here’s more from the Music & Aviation Day Camp webpage,
The Canada Aviation and Space Museum is pleased to collaborate with Sonart Music School to offer weekly Music and Aviation Summer Day Camps at the Museum, from July 2nd to August 23rd, 2019.
Each day includes music lessons, aerodynamics demonstrations, outdoor activities and the children also perform in a concert at the end of the week!
Campers take off on a full flight of activities artfully balanced between music and aviation. Children become familiar with aeronautical concepts, including the principles of flight, and are introduced to various musical instruments such as drums, guitar, piano, voice, and violin. Your child will be challenged to push his or her limits through fascinating activities and captivating projects.
Go here to register. You can find out more about Sonart Music School here. Good luck with getting into the events and registering for the camp sessions you’d like!
Bee hygiene at the University of British Columbia (UBC)
After the news about a draft report* from the United Nations claiming that up to one million species are at risk due to humans (see April 23, 2019 news item on phys.org for more about the draft report), I thought this UBC research news might sound a more hopeful note.
There are parts of this video, which I found strangely hypnotic,
While poor hygiene may be a deal breaker in human relationships, in bee colonies it can be a matter of life and death.
Which is why, for two weeks in May, a lab at UBC runs a high-tech matchmaking service for bees: swipe right for hygienic bees, swipe left if not.
“Certain worker bees exhibit something called ‘hygienic behaviour,’ where they recognize nest mates that are infected by a pest or pathogen and remove them from the colony,” said Leonard Foster, a biochemist and professor at the Michael Smith Laboratories at UBC. “This is one way that bees defend against the varroa mite, which is typically responsible for about 40 per cent of Canadian colonies that are lost every year.”
According to Foster, the varroa mite is currently one of the most important factors in bee health, but only about five per cent of bees exhibit the defensive hygienic behaviour.
“We believe hygienic bees have a certain class of protein involved in detecting odours associated with pest and pathogen infections,” said Foster, who is also director of the PCF. “These odours trigger a grooming impulse, with the odour molecule binding to a protein and sending a signal.”
Beekeepers from across the Lower Mainland ship bees to the lab to be analyzed ahead of the spring swarm period, when bees mate and new honey bee colonies form
The researchers study the bees’ antennae, which contain the protein that can signal hygienic behaviour. Because all worker bees in a hive have a single mother, the scientists can gauge the state of the whole hive by looking at a few of these bees.
Once Foster’s team identifies the most hygienic colonies, beekeepers bring new queen bees and male ‘drones,’ raised from those colonies to hives isolated on Bowen Island, where they will mate and produce a new generation of bees.
“This isn’t genetic modification – we aren’t changing the structure of the bees,” said Foster. “We merely finding the most hygienic ones from the natural populations, and allowing beekeepers to match queen bees with the most appropriate candidates.”
Protein analysis is more accurate than behavioural observations and this type of research allows for more effective and faster selective breeding.
“Our research shows that you can predict the behaviour of specific colonies by understanding their protein structures better,” said Foster. “We don’t need to painstakingly monitor colonies wondering if they are going to be hygienic or not. We hope this will provide beekeepers a tool that will make their lives easier.”
And, because I love bee beards,
*ETA May 7, 2019 at 1440 PDT: There’s even more recent information about disappearing species in a summary released by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES): “IPBES: Nature’s dangerous decline ‘unprecedented,’ species extinction rates ‘accelerating’; Current global response insufficient; ‘transformative changes’ needed to restore and protect nature; opposition from vested interests can be overcome for public good; most comprehensive assessment of its kind; 1 million species threatened with extinction.” A May 6, 2019 IPBES news release on EurrekAlert.