Nano Research Facility School of Engineering & Applied Science

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Nanofabrication - making the "small" things

The development of nanotechnology depends on the ability to build and maneuver structures at the scale of 10-100 nanometers (nm). Traditionally, engineers have fabricated nanometer-sized structures through a “top-down” approach by “carving them out” via lithography from a large substrate. Substantial and growing capital investment is required for such fabrication techniques. Alternatively, a “bottom-up” approach, relying on the self-assembly of atomic and molecular species into nanoscale structures through chemical processes, may hasten the development of future nanotechnology products by providing a cost-effective route to the production of uniform nanostructures on large scales.


Nanotoxicity - addressing the safety issue

Nanotoxicology refers to the study of the interactions of nanostructures with biological systems with an emphasis on identifying the relationship between the physical and chemical properties of nanostructures and induction of toxic biological responses. A complete understanding of the relationship between unique properties of  nanostructures and in vivo and in vitro behaviors will provide a strong basis for assessing toxic responses. Studies in animal models will identify the organs of interest, in turn leading to identification of the best cell types for in vitro cytotoxicity studies to further enhance our understanding of how these cells molecularly respond to the nanostructures. Toxicologic tests and the resulting database would provide information for material safety data sheets for nanoparticles as well as a basis for risk assessment and management.


Nanomedicine - putting nanotech at work for biomedical research

The focus of nanotech research has gradually shifted from development of high-quality nanomaterials and investigation of their physical properties to applications. Biomedical research has been identified as one of the fields that can greatly benefit from the advancement in nanotech. In particular, nanomedicine - an offshoot of nanotech that refers to highly specific medical intervention at the nanoscale for curing disease and repairing damaged tissues such as bone, muscle, or nerve - is emerging as an exciting field not just for biomedical researchers but also for chemists and material scientists. The power of nanomedicine lies in its ability to operate on the same small scale as  the intimate biochemical functions involved in the growth, development, and aging of the human body. It is expected to provide a new framework for diagnosing, treating, and preventing disease.


Enlightening Research

The Nano Research Facility (NRF) enjoys a variety of partnerships with research institutions throughout the world, creating shared opportunities for discovery and innovation. One ongoing partnership with the Central Arid Zone Research Institute in Jodhpur, India, involves improving solar utilization in plants, which could lead to better yields in organic farms worldwide.

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Better Treatment, Better Outcomes

Stroke is the third leading cause of death in America, but Pulse Therapeutics, Inc., a St. Louis-based medical device company, is working to change that. Of paramount importance in the fight against strokes is the innovation of more effective treatment technologies. That is why Pulse Therapeutics, in partnership with Washington University’s Nano Research Facility (NRF), is developing an emergency room technology to improve stroke outcomes in patients. This technology mechanically amplifies the effects of clot-busting drugs in the treatment of stroke using an external magnetic field coupled to magnetic nanoparticles at the site of the clot.

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