Nanoemulsions improve cancer treatment

The efficacy of nutrients, drugs, and even cancer treatments depends not only on their chemical composition, but also on their formulation and delivery method. Researchers at the Center for Health & Disease Research at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell, Department of Clinical Laboratory and Nutritional Sciences, have demonstrated that nanoemulsions-which encapsulate drug or nutrient molecules in sub-micron-size oil droplets suspended in water-can dramatically increase the rate and level of absorption into the body. Further, nanoemulsions offer benefits such as side-effects mitigation and antiviral/antibacterial action.

As participants of Microfluidics Corp.’s Advocacy Program, which works with doctors and scientists worldwide, Robert Nicolosi, PhD, director of the center, and his doctoral students have used Microfluidics’ high-shear Microfluidizer processors to create nanoemulsions with particles of 50nm to 100nm. Their study of tumor growth in hairless mice has shown that tamoxifen-the world’s primary breast cancer treatment-dramatically improves its efficacy when prepared in a nanoemulsion and administered by subcutaneous injection and by topical application.

A separate study found that nanoemulsion of an anti-oxidant synergy formulation (ASF)-consisting of soybean oil, polysorbate 80, and water-reduces tumor growth in neuroblastoma-bearing hairless mice. ASF nanoemulsions prepared with Microfluidizer technology caused a reduction of tumor size by an average of 65% when applied either by subcutaneous injection or transdermally, whereas suspensions of ASF formulated with a conventional homogenizer (Brinkmann Instruments’ Polytron PT 10/35) were ineffective in decreasing tumor size.

Previously, Nicolosi’s lab used “self-assembling” technology that involved mixing polymers and solvents with an oil solution and water to form the dispersed spherical droplets, and then adding drug particles. “The self-assembling technologies produce good-quality nanoemulsions and nanospheres with a relatively uniform particle size,” says Nicolosi-but the method has several drawbacks, including the fact that “only a small amount of drug material can be loaded into each droplet, considerably increasing dosage size.” With the Microfluidizer, “we are able to load as much as 10 times more drug and nutrient molecules into each droplet while maintaining the same droplet size.”

Microfluidizer high-shear processing promises extremely small, uniform particles in very few passes. Microfluidics says its technology ensures that once scientists achieve a successful result within the lab, they can apply the same specifications to a full-scale production system and get the same result.

MEMS enables semiconductor test advancement

FormFactor Inc. says it has developed a breakthrough technology capable of full area wafer probing of high pin density, ultra fine-pitch devices. Compared to current capabilities, the new approach will provide a 10x reduction in pitch (spacing between contacts) and potentially allow the probing of 1,000x more contacts on a 300mm wafer in a single touchdown.

To cope with the trend of device size shrinkage and increasing numbers of testing pads, semiconductor device designers will need to reduce the physical dimensions of the testing pads while maintaining high throughput. FormFactor’s new technology can reduce the contactor pitch for an area array from approximately 200 microns to less than 20 microns. The technology, leveraging FormFactor’s MEMS expertise, employs a true vertical spring, improving contact precision well beyond existing capabilities.

The new technology will be commercially available within three to five years.

Discoveries position atomic structures as electronic components

A pair of achievements by IBM, detailed in two articles by the journal Science, illustrate the futuristic concept of using molecules as electronic components.

The first reports major progress in probing magnetic anisotropy in individual atoms-a fundamental measurement that determines an atom’s ability to store information. Previously, nobody had been able to measure the magnetic anisotropy of a single atom, says IBM. And with further work it may be possible to build structures consisting of small clusters of atoms, or even individual atoms, which could reliably store magnetic information. The breakthrough could lead to new kinds of structures and devices so small they could be applied to entire new fields and disciplines beyond traditional computing.

A naphthalocyanine molecule in the “on” and the “off” states.
Click here to enlarge image

The second article describes the first single-molecule switch that, according to IBM, “can operate flawlessly without disrupting the molecule’s outer frame-a significant step toward building computing elements at the molecular scale that are vastly smaller and faster and use less energy than today’s computer chips and memory devices.” In addition to switching within a single molecule, the researchers demonstrated that atoms inside one molecule can be used to switch atoms in an adjacent molecule, representing a rudimentary logic element.