Tag: nanotechnology

Bioethics News

Ethics Issues Raised by Human Enhancement

Over the last 30 years, the evolutionary status and trajectory of the human species has been brought into question by rapid progress within the fields of nanotechnology, biotechnology, information technology and cognitive science

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Smarter Artificial Intelligence: A Not So Obvious Choice

By Shray Ambe


This post was written as part of a class assignment from students who took a neuroethics course with Dr. Rommelfanger in Paris of Summer 2016.

My name is Shray Ambe and I am a rising senior at Emory University. I am a Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology major who is pursuing a career in the medical field. Outside of the classroom, I am involved in organizing the booth for Emory’s Center for The Study of Human Health at the Atlanta Science Festival Expo every year and also enjoy volunteering at the Emory Autism Center and the Radiology Department at Emory University Hospital. 
At the 2016 Neuroethics Network in Paris, France, bioethicist and philosopher John Harris gave a lecture titled “How Smart Do We Want Machines to Be?” During his lecture, Harris discussed the potential impacts of artificial intelligence (AI) and stated “it doesn’t matter how smart they are; obviously the smarter the better.” But is smarter AI really “obviously” better? 
Renowned American inventor Ray Kurzweil has described the use of AI as the beginning of a “beautiful new era” in which machines will have the insight and patience to solve outstanding problems of nanotechnology and spaceflight, improve the human condition, and allow us to upload our consciousness into an immortal digital form, thus spreading intelligence throughout the cosmos. Kurzweil’s views on AI extoll the virtues of such technology and its potential to enhance the human race with its endless possibilities. However, his views also raise concerns about how such technology can not only be detrimental to the human condition, but also put its very existence at risk. 

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

Johns Hopkins Scientists Track Metabolic Pathways to Find Drug Combination for Pancreatic Cancer

August 29, 2016

(Nanotechnology Now) – Cancer researchers have long observed the value of treating patients with combinations of anti-cancer drugs that work better than single drug treatments. Now, in a new study using laboratory-grown cells and mice, Johns Hopkins scientists report that a method they used to track metabolic pathways heavily favored by cancer cells provides scientific evidence for combining anti-cancer drugs, including one in a nanoparticle format developed at Johns Hopkins, that specifically target those pathways.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

Lab-on-a-Chip Breakthrough Aims to Help Physicians Detect Cancer and Diseases at the Nanoscale

August 4, 2016

(Nanowerk) – IBM scientists have developed a new lab-on-a-chip technology that can, for the first time, separate biological particles at the nanoscale and could help enable physicians to detect diseases such as cancer before symptoms appear. As reported today in the journal Nature Nanotechnology (“Nanoscale Lateral Displacement Arrays for Separation of Exosomes and Colloids Down to 20nm”), the IBM team’s results show size-based separation of bioparticles down to 20 nanometers (nm) in diameter, a scale that gives access to important particles such as DNA, viruses and exosomes.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

You’ve Got Nerve

You’ve Got Nerve

August 4, 2016

(The Economist) – The general idea of building computers to resemble brains is called neuromorphic computing, a term coined by Carver Mead, a pioneering computer scientist, in the late 1980s. There are many attractions. Brains may be slow and error-prone, but they are also robust, adaptable and frugal. They excel at processing the sort of noisy, uncertain data that are common in the real world but which tend to give conventional electronic computers, with their prescriptive arithmetical approach, indigestion. The latest development in this area came on August 3rd, when a group of researchers led by Evangelos Eleftheriou at IBM’s research laboratory in Zurich announced, in a paper published in Nature Nanotechnology, that they had built a working, artificial version of a neuron.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Precision Oncology: Nanoparticles Target Bone Cancers in Dogs

Caption: Veterinary researcher Timothy Fan with his healthy family pet Ember.
Credit: L. Brian Stauffer

Many people share their homes with their pet dogs. Spending years under the same roof with the same environmental exposures, people and dogs have something else in common that sometimes gets overlooked. They can share some of the same diseases, such as diabetes and cancer. By studying these diseases in dogs, researchers can learn not only to improve care for people but for their canine friends as well.

As a case in point, an NIH-funded team of researchers recently tested a new method of delivering chemotherapy drugs for osteosarcoma, a bone cancer that affects dogs and people, typically teenagers and older adults. Their studies in dogs undergoing treatment for osteosarcoma suggest that specially engineered, bone-seeking nanoparticles might safely deliver anti-cancer drugs precisely to the places where they are most needed. These early findings come as encouraging news for the targeted treatment of inoperable bone cancers and other malignancies that spread to bone.

Nanoparticles are engineered in the lab by manipulating matter on an atomic and molecular scale into custom-made, three-dimensional materials that measure under 100 nanometers (a nanometer is 1 billionth of a meter). These materials can be programmed to seek out something unique about a tissue and bypass other parts of the body. Cancer researchers seek to utilize this homing ability to deliver a chemotherapy drug directly to a patient’s tumor, boosting its effectiveness and limiting its side effects.

But the development of nanoparticles to fight cancer has been slowed by some natural limitations of testing them in mice, the preferred mammalian research model.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

Researchers Invent ‘Smart’ Threat That Collects Diagnostic Data When Sutured into Tissue

July 19, 2016

(Nanotechnology Now) – For the first time, researchers led by Tufts University engineers have integrated nano-scale sensors, electronics and microfluidics into threads – ranging from simple cotton to sophisticated synthetics – that can be sutured through multiple layers of tissue to gather diagnostic data wirelessly in real time, according to a paper published online July 18 in Microsystems & Nanoengineering. The research suggests that the thread-based diagnostic platform could be an effective substrate for a new generation of implantable diagnostic devices and smart wearable systems.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

New Method Uses Nanotechnology to Map Social Network of Proteins in Breast Cancer Cells

July 18, 2016

(News-Medical) – A powerful new technology that maps the “social network” of proteins in breast cancer cells is providing detailed understanding of the disease at a molecular level and could eventually lead to new treatments, Australian scientists say. The technique – called BiCAP – uses nanotechnology to visualise and isolate protein complexes in breast cancer cells. The results are then combined with a sensitive method called proteomics to map and measure how the proteins interact with each other and ultimately control cell behaviour.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

Nanotechnology-Based Approach to Repair the Cancer Cell Suicide Mechanism

July 7, 2016

(Nanowerk) – Cancer is a very complex disease and the exact cause is not clearly understood yet. Extensive biomedical research suggests a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Treatment for cancer can be of many types and primarily depends on the type of the disease, its progression and other factors. Under normal circumstances, apoptosis is a highly regulated and controlled biochemical process that leads to cell death. In other words, this is a natural process by which cells ‘commit suicide’. Cancer cells are ‘smart’ and trick this normal cellular mechanism and evade this process leading to uncontrolled cellular growth.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Snapshots of Life: Finding a Cube for Cancer

 

Jenolyn F. Alexander and Biana Godin, Houston Methodist Research Institute; Veronika Kozlovskaya and Eugenia Kharlampieva, University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Creative photographers have long experimented with superimposing images, one over the other, to produce striking visual effects. Now a group of NIH-supported scientists at Houston Methodist Research Institute and their colleagues have done the same thing to highlight their work in the emerging field of cancer nanomedicine, using microscopic materials to deliver cancer treatments with potentially greater precision. In the process, the researchers generated a photographic work of art that was a winner in the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology 2015 Bioart competition.

The gold cubes are man-made polymer microcarriers, just 2 micrometers wide (by comparison, human cells generally range in diameter from 7 to 20 micrometers), designed to transport chemotherapy drugs directly to tumor cells. These experimental cubes, enlarged in the upper left part of the photo with a scanning electron microscope for better viewing, have been superimposed onto a second photograph snapped with a confocal fluorescence microscope. It shows similar cube-shaped microcarriers (yellow) inside cultured breast cancer cells (nucleus is purple, cytoplasm is turquoise).

Although the cubes inside the cells are empty and won’t kill the tumor cells, this dry run illustrates an interesting finding: of three breast cancer cell lines studied, all preferentially internalized cubed microcarriers over spherical ones [1]. In one cell line incubated for 24 hours with the differently shaped microcarriers, the cubes were internalized 8.8 fold more often than the spheres. While this discovery is yet to be fully explained, the researchers suspect that the flat surface of the cubes allows better adherence to the cancer cell membrane than spheres.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.