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quinta-feira, 30 de julho de 2015

No Small Task: Generating Robust Nano Data

Used under creative commons license from brookhavenlab.
Visualizing and measuring materials at the nanoscale:
Center for Functional Nanomaterials at the Brookhaven National Laboratory.
A slogan that summarizes NGO and European Union Parliament requirements for regulating products of nanotechnology is “No data, no market.” But what kind of data and for what kind of market? I participated in a National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI)/Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) workshop, “Quantifying Exposure to Engineered Nanomaterials from Manufactured Products,” (QEEN) to get answers to those and related questions. The CPSC, whose budget was described by one of its officials as a “rounding error” relative to other NNI agencies’ budgets, co-organized an excellent workshop dedicated to producing data to protect consumers. According to both academic and regulatory scientist presentations at QEEN, it is no small task to generate reliable, good quality data to measure the exposure of humans, animals and the environment materials ranging from atomic to molecular-size that have been advertised as the basis for the 21st Century Industrial Revolution.

At the opening of QEEN, the pressure on the scientists to deliver the data to enable regulatory permits to commercialize nano-products was expressed by the assistant director of the presidential Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). Dr. Lloyd Whitman said that fifteen years after the launch of the NNI, it was time for NNI 2.0, the era of nanotechnology commercialization. However, Dr. Whitman talked about how a new “ Environment, Health and Safety (EHS) ecosystem” with a faster throughput of data for evaluating risks would be needed. He announced an OSTP call for the scientists to pose (and later achieve) solutions to “Nanotechnology-Inspired Grand Challenges.” But first it would be necessary for the scientists to resolve the pesky problem of generating data.

The scientists identified three interrelated problems in generating data that reliably would inform regulators which nanomaterials in which products at what point in their life cycle would pose “unreasonable risks,” (a term in U.S. law) to consumers, workers and the environment. I found the three problems crucial to understanding exposures that could result from agri-nanotechnology products in the research and development pipeline, including nano-enabled pesticides, fertilizers and food packaging materials, for consumers, farm workers, rural communities and the environment.

First, to get realistic data about possible risks of nanotechnology-enabled products as they are used, it will be necessary to have the cooperation of nanotechnology product developers. The scientists must evaluate nanomaterials in their product matrix, e.g. nano silicon dioxide in a dry soup mix or nano titanium in sunscreen ointments. This kind of evaluation is a different, and more difficult, task than safety assessment of the pristine nanomaterials that scientists synthesized and studied during the first decade of the NNI.

However, that necessary cooperation by the nanotech industry has not been forthcoming, since there is no rule to compel it to submit nanotechnology-enabled products and data about those products for pre-market safety assessment. The scientists have had to resort to informal networks to get unofficial product samples, the risk assessment of which may have scientific validity but not regulatory validity, since the products have not been obtained with the cooperation of the product developer who seeks commercialization.

Second, many of the relevant experiments to simulate the “weathering,” or use of nano-enabled products over time, to obtain realistic exposure data often require expensive equipment and repeated trials. Sometimes such equipment is not available over the longer timeframe needed for exposure studies. Such practical considerations are crucial in determining how and how many nanoparticles are released from their product matrix, which, in turn, determines human and environmental exposure. But scientists do not yet understand what triggers particles to release under what conditions for many nanomaterials, so more experiments will be required to get realistic exposure data.

One academic scientist said that few commercial toxicology labs currently have the equipment and training to detect nanomaterials in products. How could their testing capacity be enhanced with less costly equipment than that used by government agencies and major research universities? One regulatory scientist indicated that currently there is no way to validate techniques for environmental modeling. This means there is data generated by experiments, but no database that will inform a lab reliably on the “fate and transport” of nanomaterials, i.e. where they will go and with what environmental, health and safety effects. There is an urgent need to publish the data sets, as well as the nanotechnology research papers funded by the government, so that scientists can mine the data sets outside their own research to be able to predict the environmental, health and safety effects of a nanotechnology application.

U.S. government funding has not been as forthcoming for exposure studies as it had been for determining nanomaterial hazards, such as unquantified potential for toxicity or mutagenicity. Another academic scientist said that he believed the use of carbon nanotubes (CNT) to strengthen polymers, such as those used in automobiles bumpers, could not become widespread without developing data to determine the effect of worker exposures to CNTs and to develop adequate protective equipment and manufacturing procedures to minimize risks to workers.

A third problem is that the anticipated increased complexity of nanomaterials and their multiple insertion points in products and the human and natural environment require a research strategy that groups similar materials for experimentation and risk assessment. There is scientific consensus, if not publicly available industry data, about which Top Ten nanomaterials are most widely used. However, there are no public databases that group nanomaterials on the basis of their electrical, chemical, magnetic, thermal and other properties, such as shape, particle distribution and other metrics.  Without such databases, regulator and industry demands for high throughput determination of environmental, health and safety effects cannot be realized. A smart industry would be happy to pay for such data bases as part of its sustainable business model.

The OSTP recommends that the EHS regulators evaluate each application for commercialization on a case by case basis, even if the EHS agency does not have the budget, infrastructure or personnel to do scientifically robust risk assessment on a scale. If the government and industry demanding the data are willing to pay for the experiments to generate it and the computer programming to organize the data into relatable groups, a product by product pre-market safety assessment is technically feasible.
However, in my view, the default procedure of inadequately resourced regulators under the current anti-regulatory siege in Congress likely will be to deregulate. Deregulation, in which neither industry nor the government is legally liable for product safety, may be an attractive alternative to trying to regulate product applications for which the agency lacks resources to conduct risk assessments on products based on robust exposure data of nanomaterials and nano-enabled products in realistic use simulations.
The science presented at QEEN was impressive in both its experimental design and ambition. While I cannot summarize the variety of experiments reported in a blog, nor, indeed, accurately report them in detail, some past NNI workshops have been reported on and included in some of the presentations, such as the recent report on the 2014 NNI workshop on nano-biosensors, in which IATP participated.

For example, it is now possible, as reported by Dr. Robert Mercer of the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety, to visualize and count individual nanoparticles of different engineered nanomaterials in tissues sections samples from different sections of the lungs and lymph nodes of postmortem laboratory rats. After 12 days of inhalation exposure to Multi-Walled Carbon Nanotubes (MWCNTs), the agglomeration of MWCNTs can be visualized over a 336-day period in the lungs, lymph nodes, diaphragm, kidneys and brains of the exposed rats. Such experiments are crucial for determining the environmental, health and safety effects of MWCNTs and to designing industrial processes and protective equipment for those working with MWCNTs in an industrial setting.

Notwithstanding such an impressive experimental achievement in pathology, the technical limitations of  the life cycle modeling of how nanoparticles are transported in the air, water, blood, saliva and other fluids produce a wide range of uncertainty about data, e.g. for predictive toxicology. Variants of one scientist’s comment were repeated by many: despite a decade of research in life cycle modeling of nanomaterials, scientists still cannot respond to questions about human exposure assessment with the degree of precision and standardization required by regulators.  

There are nanotechnology jokes made about doing more with less, but if governments fail to finance adequately the research into human, animal and environmental exposures to nanomaterials, and if industry continues to fail to provide the scientists with nano-products to analyze in a regulatory process, regulators could allow a market for nanotechnology to develop without robust exposure data. The human and environmental health consequences of such a market, even if not resulting in acute toxicity, will not be funny at all.

Fonte: IATP

segunda-feira, 27 de julho de 2015

Nuevos medicamentos para detectar nanopartículas en los alimentos

La producción y la caracterización de materiales de referencia con los que detectar nanopartículas de plata en la carne es posible, tal y como se muestra en un experimento realizado recientemente. Los métodos empleados en el proyecto NANOLYSE consisten en la utilización de dos concentraciones distintas de nanopartículas de plata para adulterar carne de pollo y así generar materiales de referencia con los que detectar nanopartículas en alimentos.

Para la producción de los materiales de referencia se mezcló una suspensión acuosa de nanopartículas con puré de carne de pollo y el resultado se congeló a gran velocidad en nitrógeno líquido a -150 °C. Este procedimiento generó un material homogéneo con una aglomeración moderada de nanopartículas de plata. Gracias al experimento se descubrió que las dispersiones acuosas de nanopartículas de plata (AgNP) son lo suficientemente homogéneas como para servir de referencia. Aun así es necesario solventar ciertos obstáculos, como el concerniente a la evaluación de la estabilidad.

Los nanomateriales, que contienen partículas inferiores a los cien nanómetros, están encontrando cada vez más aplicaciones en ámbitos como la sanidad, la electrónica, los productos cosméticos, los embalajes, etc. Al mercado mundial de nanoproductos (productos que contienen nanomateriales) se le atribuye un valor de entre 150.000 y 200.000 millones de euros al año.

No obstante, las propiedades físicas y químicas de los nanomateriales difieren de las de esos mismos materiales en masa, por lo que es necesario realizar evaluaciones de riesgo específicas con las que garantizar su seguridad para los humanos y el medio ambiente. Esta es una tarea que se realiza en la actualidad para cada material, pero los métodos empleados han de actualizarse dada la popularización de estos materiales.

Además existen normativas jurídicas vigentes como el Reglamento (UE) 1169/2011 por el que se obliga a los productores de alimentos a informar a los consumidores sobre la presencia de nanopartículas artificiales. La presencia de nanopartículas en los alimentos es preocupante por el riesgo evidente de ingestión. Estas nanopartículas pueden contaminar los alimentos por filtración de aditivos del embalaje o por causas ambientales.

El proyecto NANOLYSE, Nanoparticles in Food: Analytical methods for detection and characterisation, activo desde enero de 2010 hasta septiembre de 2013, se dedicó a este tema. El proyecto se propuso desarrollar métodos validados y materiales de referencia para analizar nanopartículas en varios tipos de alimentos y bebidas. Los hallazgos de NANOLYSE contribuirán a garantizar la seguridad de las aplicaciones de los materiales con nanopartículas en contacto con los alimentos, por ejemplo los utilizados en el embalaje de alimentos, como los óxidos metálicos y los silicatos. En primer lugar se seleccionaron varias nanopartículas prioritarias que sirvieran de modelo de aplicabilidad de los métodos generados. Se dio prioridad a métodos que pudieran implementarse con facilidad en laboratorios de análisis de alimentos existentes. Los investigadores también desarrollaron programas informáticos para el análisis semiautomatizado de las imágenes de microscopia electrónica, que permite detectar nanopartículas en diferentes productos alimenticios de forma fiable.

Los métodos de detección y caracterización de nanopartículas en alimentos presentaban enormes carencias en el momento en el que se puso en marcha el proyecto NANOLYSE. En él propusieron varios métodos estándar posibles para la identificación rápida y fiable de nanopartículas sintéticas en alimentos, métodos que dos años después siguen sirviendo de base para nuevas investigaciones.

Fonte: NanoMed

domingo, 26 de julho de 2015

New study shows how nanoparticles can clean up environmental pollutants

Nanomaterials and UV light can “trap” chemicals for easy removal from soil and water.

Many human-made pollutants in the environment resist degradation through natural processes, and disrupt hormonal and other systems in mammals and other animals. Removing these toxic materials — which include pesticides and endocrine disruptors such as bisphenol A (BPA) — with existing methods is often expensive and time-consuming.
In a new paper published this week in Nature Communications, researchers from MIT and the Federal University of Goiás in Brazil demonstrate a novel method for using nanoparticles and ultraviolet (UV) light to quickly isolate and extract a variety of contaminants from soil and water.
Ferdinand Brandl and Nicolas Bertrand, the two lead authors, are former postdocs in the laboratory of Robert Langer, the David H. Koch Institute Professor at MIT’s Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research. (Eliana Martins Lima, of the Federal University of Goiás, is the other co-author.) Both Brandl and Bertrand are trained as pharmacists, and describe their discovery as a happy accident: They initially sought to develop nanoparticles that could be used to deliver drugs to cancer cells.
Brandl had previously synthesized polymers that could be cleaved apart by exposure to UV light. But he and Bertrand came to question their suitability for drug delivery, since UV light can be damaging to tissue and cells, and doesn’t penetrate through the skin. When they learned that UV light was used to disinfect water in certain treatment plants, they began to ask a different question.
“We thought if they are already using UV light, maybe they could use our particles as well,” Brandl says. “Then we came up with the idea to use our particles to remove toxic chemicals, pollutants, or hormones from water, because we saw that the particles aggregate once you irradiate them with UV light.”
A trap for ‘water-fearing’ pollution
The researchers synthesized polymers from polyethylene glycol, a widely used compound found in laxatives, toothpaste, and eye drops and approved by the Food and Drug Administration as a food additive, and polylactic acid, a biodegradable plastic used in compostable cups and glassware.
Nanoparticles made from these polymers have a hydrophobic core and a hydrophilic shell. Due to molecular-scale forces, in a solution hydrophobic pollutant molecules move toward the hydrophobic nanoparticles, and adsorb onto their surface, where they effectively become “trapped.” This same phenomenon is at work when spaghetti sauce stains the surface of plastic containers, turning them red: In that case, both the plastic and the oil-based sauce are hydrophobic and interact together.
If left alone, these nanomaterials would remain suspended and dispersed evenly in water. But when exposed to UV light, the stabilizing outer shell of the particles is shed, and — now “enriched” by the pollutants — they form larger aggregates that can then be removed through filtration, sedimentation, or other methods.
The researchers used the method to extract phthalates, hormone-disrupting chemicals used to soften plastics, from wastewater; BPA, another endocrine-disrupting synthetic compound widely used in plastic bottles and other resinous consumer goods, from thermal printing paper samples; and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, carcinogenic compounds formed from incomplete combustion of fuels, from contaminated soil.
The process is irreversible and the polymers are biodegradable, minimizing the risks of leaving toxic secondary products to persist in, say, a body of water. “Once they switch to this macro situation where they’re big clumps,” Bertrand says, “you won’t be able to bring them back to the nano state again.”
The fundamental breakthrough, according to the researchers, was confirming that small molecules do indeed adsorb passively onto the surface of nanoparticles.
“To the best of our knowledge, it is the first time that the interactions of small molecules with pre-formed nanoparticles can be directly measured,” they write in Nature Communications.
Nano cleansing
Even more exciting, they say, is the wide range of potential uses, from environmental remediation to medical analysis.
The polymers are synthesized at room temperature, and don’t need to be specially prepared to target specific compounds; they are broadly applicable to all kinds of hydrophobic chemicals and molecules.
“The interactions we exploit to remove the pollutants are non-specific,” Brandl says. “We can remove hormones, BPA, and pesticides that are all present in the same sample, and we can do this in one step.”
And the nanoparticles’ high surface-area-to-volume ratio means that only a small amount is needed to remove a relatively large quantity of pollutants. The technique could thus offer potential for the cost-effective cleanup of contaminated water and soil on a wider scale.
“From the applied perspective, we showed in a system that the adsorption of small molecules on the surface of the nanoparticles can be used for extraction of any kind,” Bertrand says. “It opens the door for many other applications down the line.”
This approach could possibly be further developed, he speculates, to replace the widespread use of organic solvents for everything from decaffeinating coffee to making paint thinners. Bertrand cites DDT, banned for use as a pesticide in the U.S. since 1972 but still widely used in other parts of the world, as another example of a persistent pollutant that could potentially be remediated using these nanomaterials. “And for analytical applications where you don’t need as much volume to purify or concentrate, this might be interesting,” Bertrand says, offering the example of a cheap testing kit for urine analysis of medical patients.
The study also suggests the broader potential for adapting nanoscale drug-delivery techniques developed for use in environmental remediation.
“That we can apply some of the highly sophisticated, high-precision tools developed for the pharmaceutical industry, and now look at the use of these technologies in broader terms, is phenomenal,” says Frank Gu, an assistant professor of chemical engineering at the University of Waterloo in Canada, and an expert in nanoengineering for health care and medical applications.
“When you think about field deployment, that’s far down the road, but this paper offers a really exciting opportunity to crack a problem that is persistently present,” says Gu, who was not involved in the research. “If you take the normal conventional civil engineering or chemical engineering approach to treating it, it just won’t touch it. That’s where the most exciting part is.”

Fonte: MIT

Australian: Regulatory considerations for nanotechnology for use in agriculture and animal husbandry

Publication of the report Nanotechnologies for pesticides and veterinary medicines: regulatory considerations—final report (July 2015) marks the culmination of four years of APVMA-led research, consultation and collaboration.
The report considers the benefits and challenges of regulating nanotechnology for use in agriculture and animal husbandry, as advances in nanoscale science, engineering and technology pave the way for developing novel applications, devices and systems.
The report aims to inform and stimulate discussion about emerging nanotechnology and highlights the key regulatory considerations for agvet chemical nanomaterials based on the current state of knowledge.
It systematically explores the opportunities and risks of these substances in Australian agriculture and animal husbandry and reviews the published work relevant to the registration of nanoscale agvet chemicals.

Development of the report

In October 2014, the APVMA hosted a symposium on nanotechnology regulation, seeking national and international input from industry, scientists, regulators and the broader community on developing a regulatory framework for nanotechnologies in Australian agriculture and animal husbandry. Discussion was based on the APVMA draft report Regulatory considerations for nanopesticides and veterinary medicines (October 2014), the first of its kind to be made available for public discussion. Input subsequently received was considered in finalising the report.

Next steps

The APVMA will now use the report to finalise the regulatory approach for nanotechnology products, including:
  • building capability and expertise so new products can be evaluated effectively
  • analysing the data requirements
  • enhancing the existing regulatory framework if required as knowledge evolves
  • continuing to engage with the international scientific community so that the latest research is being considered.

Fonte: Australian Governament

Nanossatélite brasileiro parte para o espaço em um mês

O primeiro nanossatélite do Sistema Espacial para Realização de Pesquisas e Experimentos com Nanossatélites, da Agência Espacial Brasileira (AEB) em parceria com universidades, está em Tsukuba, no Japão, para ser integrado ao veículo lançador que vai transportá-lo no dia 16 de agosto para a Estação Espacial Internacional.

O pequeno satélite será colocado em órbita em volta da Terra em outubro. O lançamento será feito pela Jaxa, agência espacial japonesa, pois o Brasil não possui veículo lançador.

No estande da AEB na Expo T&C, uma das principais atrações da 67ª reunião da Sociedade Brasileira para o Progresso da Ciência (SBPC), o estudante de engenharia aeroespacial da Universidade de Brasília (UnB) Brenno Popov apresenta o artefato que ajudou a criar e montar.

Ele afirma que o desafio do projeto é provar a capacidade desses pequenos satélites na transmissão dados, recebendo e devolvendo mensagens que podem ser baixadas de qualquer lugar do planeta.

“Após 30 minutos do lançamento no espaço, o sistema será ligado e as antenas, liberadas, deixando o satélite pronto para receber comunicações da Terra”, explica o estudante.

O modelo de engenharia custou R$ 400 mil. O projeto todo teve o orçamento de R$ 3 milhões, incluindo a locação de equipamentos e modelo de voo. “Como é um satélite universitário, que os estudantes ajudam a desenvolver, não há certeza de que vai funcionar. Mas, por ser uma plataforma barata, de fácil manuseio, se der problema, a perda é pequena”, esclarece Brenno.

Além dos estudantes de Engenharia Aeroespacial e de Engenharia Elétrica da UnB, participaram do projeto alunos das universidades federais de Santa Catarina (UFSC), do ABC (Ufabc), de Minas Gerais (UFMG), do Instituto Federal Fluminense (IFF), e de universidades da Espanha (Universidade de Vigo), dos Estados Unidos (Morehead State University e California State Polytechnic) e da Itália (Sapienza Università di Roma).

*Matéria alterada às 13h19 para corrigir informação. Diferentemente do que foi publicado, o nanossatélite brasileiro só será transportado para a Estação Espacial Internacional no dia 16 de agosto, e não amanhã. O título também foi alterado.

Fonte: EBC

quarta-feira, 22 de julho de 2015

Indústria petroleira busca na nanotecnologia solução para problemas do setor

A demanda mundial por energia pode subir cerca de 60% nos próximos 25 anos, conforme a previsão da Organização dos Países Exportadores de Petróleo (OPEP). Esse índice de crescimento representa um grande desafio para a indústria de combustíveis fósseis. Para atender a esta demanda, as grandes companhias apostam no desenvolvimento e evolução da ciência e da engenharia, especialmente na área de nanotecnologia.
Apenas recentemente tem se constatado avanços no uso da nanotecnologia em áreas chaves da indústria de combustíveis fósseis, como na exploração, monitoramento, refinação e distribuição. Sua utilização é tida como a solução iminente para resolver problemas críticos enfrentados no setor, tanto em relação a extração em localizações remotas (águas muito profundas), condições adversas (altas temperaturas e pressões) e também em reservatórios pouco convencionais, de areia betuminosa, óleos pesados ou gás apertado.

Neste cenário, a nanotecnologia ganha força como uma das principais alternativas para ir além do atual potencial de fornecimento de energia sem deixar de lado a preocupação com as questões ambientais. Por esta razão, a manipulação da matéria numa escala atômica e molecular é apontada como “pedra angular” de toda a energia no futuro, conforme afirma José Vega, articulista no portal venezuelano La Comunidad Petrolera, um dos maiores do segmento na América Latina.

Em alta não apenas na indústria de combustíveis fósseis mas também em diversas outras áreas que movem a economia nacional e internacional, a nanotecnologia faz parte de um mercado mundial que movimenta mais de US$ 100 bilhões, de acordo com a entidade Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies.

domingo, 19 de julho de 2015

Brasil avança em processos de regulação para uso de nanomateriais em medicina diagnóstica e terapêutica

Pesquisador da Universidade de São Paulo, em São Carlos, já registrou 15 patentes na área de nanotecnologia aplicada à melhoria de diagnósticos, terapias e processos regenerativos

O Brasil deu um grande passo em direção à regulação do uso de nanomateriais para diagnóstico, terapia e medicina regenerativa. Desde o ano passado, a partir de uma iniciativa do Ministério da Ciência, Tecnologia e Inovação (MCTI), o país passou a fazer parte da NANoREG, uma plataforma de nanorregulação organizada pela comunidade europeia há três anos, com 16 países participantes, a partir de incentivos da academia e da indústria.
Ao fazer parte da NaNoREG, o Brasil incluiu oito grupos de pesquisa que passam a fazer testes com nanomateriais em laboratórios. “Com a entrada do Brasil, a Anvisa poderá usar as recomendações da NaNoREG”, diz Valtencir Zucolotto, membro afiliado da Academia Brasileira de Ciências (ABC) e professor associado (livre docente) no Instituto de Física de São Carlos – IFSC da Universidade de São Paulo (USP), onde coordena o Grupo de Nanomedicina e Nanotoxicologia GNano/IFSC/USP.

No primeiro dia da 67ª Reunião Anual da SBPC, que acontece na UFSCar, em São Carlos (SP), até 18 de julho, Zucolotto prendeu a atenção de uma plateia formada por pesquisadores e estudantes de diversas áreas ao explicar como o uso de nanomateriais está contribuindo para o avanço da medicina diagnóstica e terapêutica.
De acordo com Zucolotto, o avanço das pesquisas na utilização da nanotecnologia para facilitar diagnósticos, terapias e ampliar os resultados da medicina regenerativa já é uma realidade no Brasil. No âmbito dos diagnósticos, Zucolotto destacou a parceria que o Grupo de Nanomedicina e Nanotoxicologia GNano/IFSC/USP vem desenvolvendo com o Hemocentro de Ribeirão Preto. Ele explicou que começou a produzir nanomateriais para melhorar a qualidade do sistema para detectar células leucêmicas.
“Recobrimos as nanopartículas com uma proteína natural, extraída da jaca, a jacalina”, destacou.
Ainda na área de diagnósticos, ele citou os trabalhos que seu grupo vem desenvolvendo com nanosensores para detectar baixos índices de adiponectina, um hormônio proteico que modula vários processos metabólicos, incluindo a regulação da glicemia e o catabolismo de ácidos graxos. Quando um paciente começa a apresentar quedas nas taxas desse hormônio, ele pode estar prestes a desenvolver um tipo de diabetes.
“Os testes convencionais para detecção desse hormônio são muito caros. A nanotecnologia reduziu esse custo. Quem apresenta uma redução desse hormônio precisa ficar alerta”, ressaltou Zucolotto, que já tem 15 patentes registradas.
Outro trabalho do grupo coordenado por Zucolotto usa sensores com nanoeletrodos para detectar a proteína não-estrutural 1 (NS1), liberada pelo vírus da dengue após a infecção. No âmbito das terapias, o uso de nanomateriais vem contribuindo para o sucesso de smart drug delivery, ou entrega controlada de medicação no corpo do paciente. Zucolotto diz que a técnica vem sendo bem-sucedida, sobretudo, em casos em que é necessário ministrar drogas muito tóxicas, como na quimioterapia.
(Suzana Liskauskas/ Jornal da Ciência)

domingo, 5 de julho de 2015

Can nanotechnology reduce inequality?


This post is part of a series examining the connections between nanotechnology and the top 10 trends facing the world, as described in the Outlook on the Global Agenda 2015. All authors are members of the Global Agenda Council on Nanotechnology.
Over the next decade, nanotechnology will contribute to widespread technological transformation, affecting the productivity and development of a myriad of applications, from new multifunctional materials, to disease diagnostics, water purification and energy efficiency. As it does, there are concerns that it could become a technology of the rich, and help widen social and economic disparities. Yet with the right policies and development culture, nanotechnology can become a global force to reduce inequalities.
Technological innovations like nanotechnology are sometimes seen as increasing social disparities. Technological change, for instance, is often depicted as favouring more skilled workers, replacing tasks previously performed by the unskilled and increasing the demand for skilled labour. In doing so it can create substantial changes in the distribution of wealth nationally and globally. The real picture, however, is much more complex. One could argue that in the globalized world, technology is not an external force acting on the labour market, but an “endogenous” factor, where the conditions and decisions made by the developers, workers, regulators, consumers and exploiters of new technologies can determine use and a fair distribution of the outcome.
Technology and equality can and should go hand in hand. Yet to achieve this, we need creative policies and anticipatory governance mechanisms so that nanotechnology is used to reduce inequality rather than become a new source of it.
From my point of view, as a woman, mother, scientist and educator, the vision is clear and the potential is huge. In the lab, the internationality and multidisciplinarity of nanotechnology empowers our female and male students from all backgrounds, and enhances their scientific and technological creativity and entrepreneurship. Many of the applications of nanotechnology we and others are working on are potentially cheap and easy to implement, requiring minimum lab infrastructure. With the right framework, nanotechnology could become a global force to reduce national and global inequalities.
Take Elizabeth Holmes, who founded Theranos when she was 19. She uses nanoparticles to increase the effectiveness of blood testing at a fraction of current costs.Her motivation is “to create a new technology, and one that is aimed at helping humanity at all levels, regardless of geography or ethnicity or age or gender”. Elizabeth envisions empowered patients who can take control of their health through real-time diagnosis and monitoring, with testing that has open and transparent pricing schemes. The fusion of technology and inequality reduction is at the heart of her mission. She has also become the world’s youngest female self-made billionaire.
In a very different context, a group of scientists led by Marianny Y. Combariza and Cristian Blanco-Tirado at the Industrial University of Santander, in Bucaramanga, Colombia, have developed a method to synthesize nanoparticles directly on the fibres of fique. Fique is extracted from Colombiancabuya, which is mainly used in the fabrication of sacks for transporting Colombian coffee. This nano-enhanced traditional material can be used in the remediation of water contaminated with toxic indigo, which is currently used as a dye in the fabrication of denim in the region.
This example in particular illustrates how scientists are able to find relatively simple and cheap solutions to local challenges using community-relevant nanotechnology and local resources. These researchers are now pursuing the commercialization of their product globally through a partnership with ISIS innovation in the UK. It’s an example of how state-funded research and education, and public-private partnerships, can encourage wealth creation from the local entrepreneurs.
As a third example, Askwar Hilonga has developed a customizable water filter based on sand and nanomaterials, that can be tuned for water decontamination and disinfection in different environments.  Through the Gongali Model Company, a university spin-off company which he co-founded in Tanzania, Hilonga has already enabled 23 entrepreneurs in Karatu to set up their businesses with the filters, and local schools to provide their learners with clean drinking water. As Hilonga states: “Our success will not be in the sales of the filters only. We’re planning on turning community centres into ‘water hubs’. Here water can be purified and families will be able to access clean filtered water at a cheap price.”
As nanotechnology matures, we have an opportunity to develop and promote policies and approaches that reduce inequalities within the culture of sustainable developmentthat is embedded in the DNA of our field.
For instance:
  1. Policies for developing technology should include creativity, inclusiveness and equality within their core values.
  2. Public-private partnerships on both exploratory and late-stage research are needed to promote application development, qualification, regulation and adoption, facilitating the translation and the scale-up of products and ideas.
  3. The growth of existing activities should be supported through regulation that encourages local social and economic entrepreneurship and equality, rather than aligning with and protecting existing (more or less successful) economic activities.
  4. To stop the drain of talent (especially of women) and ideas that we currently suffer in academia and business in science, technology and engineering, stronger policies and actions that underpin diversity and equity are needed.
  5. We need to incentivize good practice in academia and business by, for instance, creating charters and awards that highlight and reward equitable progress and inclusiveness.
  6. We need to do a better job of including equality, diversity and entrepreneurship in parameters used to rank academic institutions globally.
  7. We need to create ambitious international scholarships and educational programmes with a strong emphasis on equality within nanotechnology, where students are encouraged to move, network, learn, disseminate and start businesses, and where institutions and industry can find a tangible value in promoting equality.
Nanotechnology is not only a large group of scientists dealing with very small things: it is a conscious, international, responsible community that has all the ingredients to become a force for social and economic equality. With the right policies, we have the opportunity to make this potential a reality.
Publication does not imply endorsement of views by the World Economic Forum.
Author: Sonia Contera is Co-Director of the Institute of Nanoscience for Medicine at Oxford Martin School, University of Oxford
Image: Physicist Urs Duerig uses tweezers to hold a silicon tip with a sharp apex, 100,000 times smaller than a sharpened pencil. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann 
Fonte: Agenda

What does nanotechnology mean for geopolitics?

By Nayef Al-Rodhan

A nano Bible is displayed at TowerJazz Semiconductor in Migdal Haemek in northern Israel October 29, 2014. The nano sized New Testament developed by an Israeli company has been nominated for the Guinness Book of Records as the World's Smallest Bible, the company said on Tuesday. Jerusalem nano Bible company said it developed a chip smaller than five by five millimetres, which contains the original Greek version of the New Testament (Textus Receptus, or "received text" in Latin). Picture taken October 29, 2014. REUTERS/Amir Cohen (ISRAEL - Tags: RELIGION SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY) - RTR4H8IF

This post is the first in a series examining the connections between nanotechnology and the top 10 trends facing the world, as described in the Outlook on the Global Agenda 2015. All authors are members of the Global Agenda Council on Nanotechnology.
Nanotechnology is less than four decades old and has already affected fields as diverse as consumer goods, weapons and therapeutic procedures. As it promises to revolutionize industries and accelerate convergence of sciences and disciplines, it’s also bringing about societal and geopolitical shifts.
A nanometre is a billionth of a metre. A human hair is about 80,000-100,000 nanometres wide. The manipulation of matter at this scale offers innovative tools toexpand the limits of what is possible, allowing for the creation of new materials or the modification of existing ones. At the nanoscale, the properties of materials can differ fundamentally from their characteristics at the macro scale. For example, despite weighing one-sixth as much as steel, carbon nanotubes are 100 times stronger.
The incremental development of nanotechnology and its transformative capacity are not without national security implications. Recognizing its enormous potential, the federal government of the United States established the National Nanotechnology Initiative in 2000 in order to maximize coherence of research and development (R&D). The initiative supports the infrastructure to develop nanotech “for the public good”.
Why nanotech matters for geopolitical competition   
As an enabling technology, nanotech can improve or revolutionize industries such as electronics, IT, energy, oil industry, environmental science, medicine, homeland security, food security, transportation and many more. The role of the US as the still-uncontested world leader in nanoscience will be put to test as numerous European countries, China, South Korea, Thailand, Japan and others are devoting more and more funding to nano research.
China’s investments in nano R&D have increased by over 20% each year in the past decade. An understanding that a boost in sciences is critical for future competitiveness has led the Chinese government to provide an extra stimulus package in 2009, with over £12bn reserved for R&D. In 2011, Russia, Korea and Singapore launched the Asia Nanotechnology Fund, which recognized that “nanotechnology is a key enabler technology for many sectors, providing for tremendous growth opportunities”.
Hundreds of commercial products now rely on nanoscale materials and processes; the market share is estimated to be between $50 billion and $1 trillion. Although commercial forecasts vary, it is without doubt that nanotech is increasingly critical for national power, a premise which follows from both current and potential military applications of nanotech.
The US Department of Defence identified nanotechnology as one of the six strategic research areas in the mid-1990s, and in recent years, emerging or so-called “re-emerging” powers have increased their investments. With the use of nanotechnology, Russia has already successfully developed the world’s most powerful non-nuclear bomb, with a blast radius of 300 meters and the ability to contain the equivalent of 44 tons of explosives (the US bomb is equivalent to 11 tons).
Seven state capabilities
The correlation between nanotech and national security is often limited to applications of nanotech in the military (and the extent to which it can redefine technological asymmetries on the battlefield). It is, however, crucial to understand that the repercussions of nanotechnology on geopolitics and national power are more far-reaching. In a previous work, Neo-Statecraft and Meta-Geopolitics, I advocated a “meta-geopolitical framework” that is more suitable for our globalized, connected and interdependent world. In this, I suggested that national power is best described in terms of seven key state capabilities:
  1. Social and health issues – Nanotechnology can have enormous implications in medicine and therapeutic procedures by improving diagnostics and providing better and faster cell repair. Nanorobots injected to fight cancerous cells can provide targeted drug delivery and make repairs at the cellular level (and potentially even correct failing organs). The DNA nanocage, designed from the body’s own molecules, is developed to “trap” diseases at the molecular level. “Nanosponges”, tiny polymer nanoparticles, could absorb toxins while removing them from the bloodstream. Gold nanoparticles could be used to detect early-stage Alzheimer’s disease. The breakthroughs in nanomedicine will provide us with unprecedented control over the human body and will simultaneously raise social and ethical debates.
  2. Domestic politics – Nanotechnology could offer both new platforms for better (and more intrusive) surveillance as well as more efficient technologies for domestic security and emergency response. For example, certain nanomaterials could be employed for creating better sensors that detect hazardous materials and nanorobots could be used to deactivate bombs.
  3. Economy – Nanotech is relevant for fields such as agriculture, where nanosensors could monitor crop growth or detect plant pathogens. It has already been in use for many electronics and it provides smaller, faster and more energy-efficient systems. Nanoscale transistors, for instance, are not only smaller, but also faster and more powerful than their conventional counterparts. To boost their oil industries, states are now looking into the potential of using nanoparticles of silica to make oil extraction faster and cheaper.
  4. Environment – Some of the hype around nanotech has focused on its potential to reverse environmental degradation: nanostructured filters and smart nano-materials could purify water or detect contamination. Furthermore, nanotech could have beneficial applications for battery-recycling processes, provide solutions for oil spills and improve the efficiency of solar panels through the incorporation of nanoparticles in solar-panel films.
  5. Science and human potential – A distinct feature of nanotech research has been the convergence with other fields, such as biology, material science, cognitive science, chemistry, engineering, etc. This convergence has generated dynamic interdisciplinary exchanges and the emergence of fields that integrate nanotech with other fields, including nano-medicine, nano-manufacturing, nano-electronics etc.
  6. Military and security potential – Some of the most groundbreaking innovations in the defence industry rely on nano-enabled applications, which span the different phases of military operations. Examples include nanostructures for invisibility cloaks for concealing soldiers, vehicles or weapons; a wide range of smarter and more devastating weapons; and, with the use of carbon nanotubes, lighter and stronger armour and vehicles. Nanotech could also change the future of communications throughmicroscope computers, help develop high-power lasers, or help improve soldiers’ uniforms, by incorporating thermal, chemical and biological sensing systems.
  7. Diplomacy – Nanotech will significantly alter the nature of warfare and weaponry, including nuclear weapons, with inevitable consequences for disarmament diplomacy. The tendency towards increased miniaturization, nano-engineered high-explosives, high performance sensors and many other devices will require new negotiations of standards of arms controls andcompliance with international law.
Another consequence of nano-enabled miniaturization and heightened precision on the battlefield will be that some of the political costs of war will be reduced. Soldiers will be better protected and civilian casualties (presumably) minimized.  At the same time, the use of nano-technologies with highly destructive potential will exacerbate asymmetries and complicate post-war reconciliation or relations between countries.
From everyday commercial products to diplomacy and war, nanotechnology is set to be a highly transformative and consequential technology for the decades to come. In the early 20th century, Halford Mackinder advanced his notion of “the pivot of history”, the idea that whoever commanded the pivot area of the heartland commanded the world. Such geopolitical thinking is now obsolete but we can use this analogy to reflect on the future relevance of nanotechnology and other similar disruptive and transformative technologies. Given its immense potential to affect different state capabilities, R&D of nanotechnology will be critical for national power.
Transnational geostrategic competition in this field is increasing exponentially, and although the US is currently at the forefront of nanotech R&D, it’s uncertain how long it can continue to maintain its status of absolute global leadership over the “science of small things”.
Author: Nayef Al-Rodhan is an Honorary Fellow at St Antony`s College, University of Oxford, and Senior Fellow and Head of the Geopolitics and Global Futures Programme at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy. He is the author of The Politics of Emerging Strategic Technologies. Implications for Geopolitics, Human Enhancement and Human Destiny.
Image: A nano Bible is displayed at TowerJazz Semiconductor in Migdal Haemek in northern Israel October 29, 2014. REUTERS/Amir Cohen

Fonte: Agenda