Thursday, October 24, 2013

Ray Kurzweil: The Biotechnology Revolution

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

James' bond: A graphene / nanotube hybrid

Seven-atom rings (in red) at the transition from graphene to nanotube make a new hybrid material from Rice University a seamless conductor. The hybrid may be the best electrode interface material possible for many energy storage and electronics applications. Credit: Tour Group/Rice University (

A seamless graphene/nanotube hybrid created at Rice University may be the best electrode interface material possible for many energy storage and electronics applications.

Led by Rice chemist James Tour, researchers have successfully grown forests of carbon nanotubes that rise quickly from sheets of graphene to astounding lengths of up to 120 microns, according to a paper published today by Nature Communications. A house on an average plot with the same aspect ratio would rise into space. That translates into a massive amount of surface area, the key factor in making things like energy-storing supercapacitors. The Rice hybrid combines two-dimensional graphene, which is a sheet of carbon one atom thick, and nanotubes into a seamless three-dimensional structure. The bonds between them are covalent, which means adjacent carbon atoms share electrons in a highly stable configuration. The nanotubes aren't merely sitting on the graphene sheet; they become a part of it.

Many people have tried to attach nanotubes to a metal electrode and it's never gone very well because they get a little electronic barrier right at the interface," Tour said. "By growing graphene on metal (in this case copper) and then growing nanotubes from the graphene, the electrical contact between the nanotubes and the metal electrode is ohmic. That means electrons see no difference, because it's all one seamless material. "This gives us, effectively, a very high surface area of more than 2,000 square meters per gram of material. It's a huge number," said Tour, Rice's T.T. and W.F. Chao Chair in Chemistry as well as a professor of mechanical engineering and materials science and of computer science and a co-author with former postdoctoral researcher and lead author Yu Zhu, now an assistant professor at the University of Akron.

Journal reference: Nature Communicationssearch and more infowebsite
Provided by Rice University

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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Approval of new drug that can fix faulty genes

According to George Dvorsky in We come from the future: The idea of treating genetic diseases by replacing a defective gene with a working copy has been around for nearly three decades, but the road to creating an actual therapy that's safe and effective has proven to be a long and difficult one. Now, thanks to the efforts of the Dutch biotech company uniQure, the Western world's first therapy to correct errors in a person's genetic code has finally been approved. While the therapy is extremely expensive and limited to a rare genetic disorder, the approval is set to open the door for similar interventions.

The drug is called Glybera and it's intended for the treatment of a genetic disorder called Lipoprotein Lipase Deficiency (LPLD), a rare, inherited disease that makes it impossible to metabolize fatty acids found in blood, what results in inflammation of the pancreas. The disorder affects about 1 in every one million people.

"This provides higher benefit to patients than the classical protein replacement strategy" he told Reuters. The European Commission gave uniQure its consent to start selling Glybera next summer.

Glybera works by introducing a normal, healthy LPL gene into the patient's body so that it can make functional LPL protein. The LPL gene is packaged in a delivery vector derived from adeno-associated virus (AAV), serotype 1, which has a natural propensity towards muscle cells.

The company is also currently working on regulatory approval for Glybera in Canada and the United States.

In future, it's thought that similar therapies will be able to remedy other genetic disorders, including Severe Combined Immunodeficiency Disorder (the so-called "bubble boy" disease).

It's worth noting that Glybera is not the world's first gene therapy drug. Back in 2003, China's Shenzhen SiBiono GeneTech won approval for a gene therapy drug for head and neck cancer (though not for use in Europe or North America).

Sources: Reuters, uniQure. Here is a link to the article in We come from the future.