Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Blind Mice & Nanotech

Nice little article on BBC News about using 'nanotech' to restore the sight of mice whos optic nerves had been severed. Now, I think this is a really cool piece of work, as they managed to cause damaged nerves to regrow and reattach, without the formation of scar tissue, holding a lot of promise for people suffering from neurological problems caused by damage between neurons. And if they ever get to human trials and the results hold up, then that will be a great thing.

The article however mentions 'nanoparticles', small peptides that were used to effect the regrowth. This I have a problem with, as it makes it seem like the nanoparticles are special, beyond being very particular peptides. What they fail to mention is that most peptides are nanoparticles, even large proteins are generally on the scale of 30-40 nanometers in diameter. Unfortunately, without being able to access the original publication (can't seem to find it in PNAS yet) I don't know if there is anything else special about these peptides that were used. It may be that there are some really small scale manipulations being carried out in constructing these peptides, but there is no mention made about it in the BBC article (not really expecting any).

I don't know who put in the 'nanoparticles', the authors of the study or the reporter, but according to the definition of nanotechnology:

"Technology development at the atomic, molecular, or macromolecular range of approximately 1-100 nanometers to create and use structures, devices, and systems that have novel properties."

then most molecular biologists and chemists could say they work with nanoparticles. However, I will admit that most do not manipulate matter atom by atom, which is an important distinction. I just wish reporters and some scientists wouldn't bandy about the word 'nano' without justifying it, especially with much of the undeserved fear being generated about all things nano.

I mean come on, better golf balls and stain resistant pants are good things as long as the world doesn't become a mass of gray goo. Science / Tech News_

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