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A nanoparticle optics project of Old Dominion University researcher X. Nancy Xu has been chosen to receive a Nano 50 Award from Nanotech Briefs, the digital magazine from the publishers of NASA Tech Briefs.

The annual awards program honors the top 50 technologies, products and innovators that have significantly impacted, or are expected to impact, the state of the art in nanotechnology. A panel of experts in nanotechnology and micro-electro-mechanical systems selected the winners.

Xu, an associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry whose work is supported by grants of more than $1 million each from the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, has won international attention for creating nanoparticles that can enter a cell and literally "light up" the interior. She has a large research group of graduate students and postdoctoral assistants, and collaborates as well on the ODU campus with Chris Osgood, associate professor of biological sciences.

An article last year distributed by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer, focused on the importance to cancer research of nanotechniques Xu has developed for probes of living cells. Most past and current research findings about biochemical reactions in cells come from tests of dead cells or of purified biomolecules extracted from cells. The "rate of a biochemical reaction occurring in a test tube could be quite different from that observed for the same reaction inside a cell," the article states.

The NCI article gave high marks to Xu's silver nanoparticles, which are exceedingly bright and do not photo-decompose, surpassing any other available probes for cellular imaging. These silver nanoparticles, according to the article, promise to provide detailed information (via advanced microscopes) about the biological processes and dynamics in living cells. This information can be used to (1) identify changes that occur when cells undergo malignant transformation, (2) perform single-cell cancer tests and (3) provide exceedingly early cancer detection that could bring major improvements to cancer therapies.

"The primary challenge now is to develop methods for modifying the surface of the nanoparticles to make them more biocompatible, so that more biological processes can be observed without perturbing or destroying the cell's intrinsic biochemical machinery," Xu was quoted as saying in the NCI article.

Nanotech Briefs wrote in its awards notification to Xu that the Nano 50 winners "are the best of the best, the innovative people and designs that will move nanotechnology to key mainstream markets."

The awards will be presented at a dinner during the NASA Tech Briefs National Nano Engineering Conference in Boston in November.

Xu's ODU research group includes: postdoctoral fellows Tao Huang, Y. Eugene Song and Hongwu Xu, and graduate students Prakash Nallathamby, Kerry Lee, Lauren Browning, Tanvi Desai and Jill Lowman.

This article was posted on: June 14, 2007

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