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Journal: ACS nano


We report on an artificially intelligent nanoarray based on molecularly modified gold nanoparticles and a random network of single-walled carbon nanotubes for noninvasive diagnosis and classification of a number of diseases from exhaled breath. The performance of this artificially intelligent nanoarray was clinically assessed on breath samples collected from 1404 subjects having one of 17 different disease conditions included in the study or having no evidence of any disease (healthy controls). Blind experiments showed that 86% accuracy could be achieved with the artificially intelligent nanoarray, allowing both detection and discrimination between the different disease conditions examined. Analysis of the artificially intelligent nanoarray also showed that each disease has its own unique breathprint, and that the presence of one disease would not screen out others. Cluster analysis showed a reasonable classification power of diseases from the same categories. The effect of confounding clinical and environmental factors on the performance of the nanoarray did not significantly alter the obtained results. The diagnosis and classification power of the nanoarray was also validated by an independent analytical technique, i.e., gas chromatography linked with mass spectrometry. This analysis found that 13 exhaled chemical species, called volatile organic compounds, are associated with certain diseases, and the composition of this assembly of volatile organic compounds differs from one disease to another. Overall, these findings could contribute to one of the most important criteria for successful health intervention in the modern era, viz. easy-to-use, inexpensive (affordable), and miniaturized tools that could also be used for personalized screening, diagnosis, and follow-up of a number of diseases, which can clearly be extended by further development.

Concepts: Medicine, Cancer, Medical terms, Chemistry, Carbon, Carbon nanotube, Machine learning, Volatile organic compound


Globally ordered colloidal crystal lattices have broad utility in a wide range of optical and catalytic devices, for example, as photonic bandgap materials. However, the self-assembly of stereospecific structures is often confounded by polymorphism. Small free energy differences often characterize ensembles of different structures, making it difficult to produce a single morphology at will. Current techniques to handle this problem adopt one of two approaches: that of the “top-down,” or “bottom-up” methodology, whereby structures are engineered starting from the largest or smallest relevant length scales, respectively. However, recently a third approach for directing high fidelity assembly of colloidal crystals has been suggested which relies on the introduction of polymer co-solutes into the crystal phase [N. A. Mahynski, A. Z. Panagiotopoulos, D. Meng, S. K. Kumar, Nat. Commun., 2014, 5, 4472]. By tuning the polymer’s morphology to interact uniquely with the void symmetry of a single desired crystal, the entropy loss associated with polymer confinement has been shown to strongly bias the formation of that phase. However, previously this approach has only been demonstrated in the limiting case of close-packed crystals. Here we show how this approach may be generalized and extended to complex open crystals, illustrating the utility of this “structure-directing agent” paradigm in engineering the nanoscale structure of ordered colloidal materials. The high degree of transferability of this paradigm’s basic principles between relatively simple crystals and more complex ones suggests this represents a valuable addition to presently known self-assembly techniques.

Concepts: Crystal, Crystal structure, Condensed matter physics, Sol-gel, Materials science, Colloidal crystal, Photonic crystal, Crystals


The development of engineered nanomaterials is growing exponentially, despite concerns over their potential similarities to environmental nanoparticles that are associated with significant cardiorespiratory morbidity and mortality. The mechanisms through which inhalation of nanoparticles could trigger acute cardiovascular events are emerging, but a fundamental unanswered question remains: Do inhaled nanoparticles translocate from the lung in man and directly contribute to the pathogenesis of cardiovascular disease? In complementary clinical and experimental studies, we used gold nanoparticles to evaluate particle translocation, permitting detection by high-resolution inductively coupled mass spectrometry and Raman microscopy. Healthy volunteers were exposed to nanoparticles by acute inhalation, followed by repeated sampling of blood and urine. Gold was detected in the blood and urine within 15 min to 24 h after exposure, and was still present 3 months after exposure. Levels were greater following inhalation of 5 nm (primary diameter) particles compared to 30 nm particles. Studies in mice demonstrated the accumulation in the blood and liver following pulmonary exposure to a broader size range of gold nanoparticles (2-200 nm primary diameter), with translocation markedly greater for particles <10 nm diameter. Gold nanoparticles preferentially accumulated in inflammation-rich vascular lesions of fat-fed apolipoproteinE-deficient mice. Furthermore, following inhalation, gold particles could be detected in surgical specimens of carotid artery disease from patients at risk of stroke. Translocation of inhaled nanoparticles into the systemic circulation and accumulation at sites of vascular inflammation provides a direct mechanism that can explain the link between environmental nanoparticles and cardiovascular disease and has major implications for risk management in the use of engineered nanomaterials.

Concepts: Immune system, Blood, Atherosclerosis, Heart, Blood vessel, Cardiovascular disease, Common carotid artery, Vein


Root canal therapy (RCT) represents a standard of treatment that addresses infected pulp tissue in teeth and protects against future infection. RCT involves removing dental pulp comprised of blood vessels and nerve tissue, decontaminating residually-infected tissue through biomechanical instrumentation, and root canal obturation using a filler material to replace the space that was previously comprised of dental pulp. Gutta percha (GP) is typically used as the filler material as it is malleable, inert, and biocompatible. While filling the root canal space with GP is the standard of care for endodontic therapies, it has exhibited limitations including leakage, root canal reinfection, and poor mechanical properties. To address these challenges, clinicians have explored the use of alternative root filling materials other than GP. Among the classes of materials that are being explored as novel endodontic therapy platforms, nanodiamonds (NDs) may offer unique advantages due to their favorable properties, particularly for dental applications. These include versatile faceted surface chemistry, biocompatibility, and their role in improving mechanical properties, among others. This study developed a ND-embedded GP (NDGP) that was functionalized with amoxicillin, a broad-spectrum antibiotic commonly used for endodontic infection. Comprehensive materials characterization confirmed improved mechanical properties of NDGP over unmodified GP. In addition, digital radiography and micro-computed tomography imaging demonstrated that obturation of root canals with NDGP could be achieved using clinically-relevant techniques. Furthermore, bacterial growth inhibition assays confirmed drug functionality of NDGP functionalized with amoxicillin. This study demonstrates a promising path towards NDGP implementation in future endodontic therapy for improved treatment outcomes.

Concepts: Biomaterial, Materials science, Teeth, Root canal, Endodontic therapy, Endodontics, Gutta-percha


To realize the sustainable energy supply in smart city, it is essential to maximize energy scavenging from the city environments for achieving the self-powered functions of some intelligent devices and sensors. Although the solar energy can be well harvested by using existing technologies, the large amounts of wasted wind energy in the city cannot be effectively utilized since the conventional wind turbine generators can only be installed in remote areas due to the large volumes and the safety issues. Here, we rationally design a hybridized nanogenerator, including a solar cell (SC) and a triboelectric nanogenerator (TENG), that can individually/simultaneously scavenging solar and wind energies, which can be extensively installed on the roofs of the city buildings. Under the same device area of about 120 mm×22 mm, the SC can deliver a largest output power of about 8 mW, while the output power of the TENG can be up to 26 mW. Impedance matching between the SC and TENG has been achieved by using a transformer to decrease the impedance of the TENG. The hybridized nanogenerator has a larger output current and a better charging performance than that of the individual SC or TENG. This research presents a feasible approach to maximize solar and wind energies scavenging from the city environments with the aim to realize some self-powered functions in smart city.

Concepts: Sun, Renewable energy, Solar power, Nuclear power, Wind power, Energy development, World energy resources and consumption, Wind turbine


The sensing and differentiation of explosive molecules is key for both security and environmental monitoring. Single fluorophores are a widely used tool for explosives detection, but a fluorescent array is a more powerful tool for detecting and differentiating such molecules. By combining array elements into a single multichannel platform; faster results can be obtained from smaller amounts of sample. Here, five explosives are detected and differentiated using quantum dots as luminescent probes in a multichannel platform - 2,4-dinitrotoluene (DNT), 2,4,6-trinitrotoluene (TNT), tetryl (2,4,6-trinitrophenylmethylnitramine), cyclotrimethylenetrinitramine (RDX) and pentaerythritol tetranitrate (PETN). The sharp, variable emissions of the quantum dots, from a single excitation wavelength, make them ideal for such a system. Each colour quantum dot is functionalised with a different surface receptor via a facile ligation process. These receptors undergo non-specific interactions with the explosives, inducing variable fluorescence quenching of the quantum dots. Pattern analysis of the fluorescence quenching data allows for explosive detection and identification with limits-of-detection in the ppb range.

Concepts: Fluorescence, Light, Quantum dot, Luminescence, Plastic explosive, Trinitrotoluene, Pentaerythritol tetranitrate, Semtex


Biodegradable polymeric nanoparticles have the potential to be safer alternatives to viruses for gene delivery; however, their use has been limited by poor efficacy in vivo. In this work, we synthesize and characterize polymeric gene delivery nanoparticles and evaluate their efficacy for DNA delivery of herpes simplex virus type I thymidine kinase (HSVtk) combined with the prodrug ganciclovir (GCV) in a malignant glioma model. We investigated polymer structure for gene delivery in two rat glioma cell lines, 9L and F98, to discover nanoparticle formulations more effective than the leading commercial reagent Lipofectamine 2000. The lead polymer structure, poly(1,4-butanediol diacrylate-co-4-amino-1-butanol) end-modified with 1-(3-aminopropyl)-4-methylpiperazine, is a poly(beta-amino ester) (PBAE) and formed nanoparticles with HSVtk DNA that were 138 ± 4 nm in size and 13 ± 1 mV in zeta potential. These nanoparticles containing HSVtk DNA showed 100% cancer cell killing in vitro in the two glioma cell lines when combined with GCV exposure, while control nanoparticles encoding GFP maintained robust cell viability. For in vivo evaluation, tumor-bearing rats were treated with PBAE/HSVtk infusion via convection-enhanced delivery (CED) in combination with systemic administration of GCV. These treated animals showed a significant benefit in survival (p=0.0012 vs. control). Moreover, following a single CED infusion, labeled PBAE nanoparticles spread completely throughout the tumor. This study highlights a nanomedicine approach that is highly promising for the treatment of malignant glioma.

Concepts: DNA, Protein, Gene, Cancer, Virus, Polymer, Brain tumor, Herpes simplex


Thrombin is a serine protease and regulator of haemostasis that plays a critical role in the formation of obstructive blood clots, or thrombosis, that is a life-threatening condition associated with numerous diseases such as atherosclerosis and stroke. To detect thrombi in living animals, we design and conjugate thrombin-sensitive peptide substrates to the surface of nanoparticles. Following intravenous infusion, these ‘synthetic biomarkers’ survey the host vasculature for coagulation and in response to substrate cleavage by thrombin, release ligand-encoded reporters into the host urine. To detect the urinary reporters, we develop a companion 96-well immunoassay that utilizes antibodies to bind specifically to the ligands, thus capturing the reporters for quantification. Using a thromboplastin-induced mouse model of pulmonary embolism, we show that urinary biomarker levels differentiate between healthy and thrombotic states and correlate closely with the aggregate burden of clots formed in the lungs. Our results demonstrate that synthetic biomarkers can be engineered to sense vascular diseases remotely from the urine and may allow applications in point-of-care diagnostics.

Concepts: Blood, Myocardial infarction, Stroke, Coagulation, Warfarin, Hematology, Thrombus, Embolism


MicroRNAs are short noncoding RNAs consisting of 18-25 nucleotides that target specific mRNA moieties for translational repression or degradation, thereby modulating numerous biological processes. Although microRNAs have the ability to behave like oncogenes or tumor suppressors in a cell-autonomous manner, their exact roles following release into the circulation are only now being unraveled and it is important to establish sensitive assays to measure their levels in different compartments in the circulation. Here, an ultrasensitive localized surface plasmon resonance (LSPR)-based microRNA sensor with single nucleotide specificity was developed using chemically synthesized gold nanoprisms attached onto a solid substrate with unprecedented long-term stability and reversibility. The sensor was used to specifically detect microRNA-10b at the attomolar (10(-18) M) concentration in pancreatic cancer cell lines, derived tissue culture media, human plasma, and media and plasma exosomes. In addition, for the first time, our label-free and nondestructive sensing technique was used to quantify microRNA-10b in highly purified exosomes isolated from patients with pancreatic cancer or chronic pancreatitis, and from normal controls. We show that microRNA-10b levels were significantly higher in plasma-derived exosomes from pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma patients when compared with patients with chronic pancreatitis or normal controls. Our findings suggest that this unique technique can be used to design novel diagnostic strategies for pancreatic and other cancers based on the direct quantitative measurement of plasma and exosome microRNAs, and can be readily extended to other diseases with identifiable microRNA signatures.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Cancer, Blood, RNA, Messenger RNA, Surface plasmon resonance, Plasma oscillation


The creation of fluorescently-labeled viruses is currently limited by the length of imaging observation time (e.g. labeling an envelope protein) and the rescue of viral infectivity (e.g. encoding a GFP protein). Using single molecule sensitive RNA hybridization probes delivered to the cytoplasm of infected cells, we were able to isolate individual, infectious, fluorescently-labeled human respiratory syncytial virus virions. This was achieved without affecting viral mRNA expression, viral protein expression, or infectivity. Measurements included the characterization of viral proteins and genomic RNA in a single virion using dSTORM, the development of a GFP fusion assay, and the development of a pulse-chase assay for viral RNA production that allowed for the detection of both initial viral RNA and nascent RNA production at designated times post-infection. Live-cell measurements included imaging and characterization of filamentous virion fusion and the quantification of virus replication within the same cell over an eight-hour period. Using probe-labeled viruses, individual viral particles can be characterized at sub-diffraction limited resolution, and viral infections can be quantified in single cells over an entire cycle of replication. The implications of this development, is that MTRIP-labeling of viral RNA during virus assembly has the potential to become a general methodology for the labeling and study of many important RNA viruses.

Concepts: DNA, Protein, Gene, Genetics, Virus, Genome, RNA, Infection