Friday, March 7, 2014

Future Pharmaceuticals: Bar Coded Materials and Self-authenticating Medicines 

On January 20,2014, Global Bio-Defence posted an interesting article entitled: Molecular Nano Spies Make Light Work of Disease Detection. Global Bio Defence noted that: 

"Researchers at the University of Nottingham's School of Pharmacy have designed and tested large molecular complexes that will reveal their true identity only when they've reached their intended target, like disguised saboteurs working deep behind enemy lines. The compounds have been developed as part of a five year program funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council called 'Bar-Coded Materials.' The cloak each spherical complex wears is perhaps more a plastic mac: a sheath of biocompatible polymer that encapsulates and shrouds biologically active material inside, preventing any biological interaction so long as the shield remains in place. The smart aspect is in the DNA-based zips that hold the coat in place until triggered to undo. Because any DNA code (or molecular cipher) can be chosen, the release mechanism can be bar coded so that it is triggered by a specific biomarker-for example a message from a disease gene. What is then exposed-an active pharmaceutical compound, a molecular tag to attach to diseased tissue, or a molecular beacon to signal activation-depends on what function is needed. Professor Cameron Alexander, who leads the project says: "These types of switchable nanoparticles could be extremely versatile. As well as initial detection of a medical condition, they could be used to monitor the progress of diseases and courses of treatment or adapted to deliver potent drugs at particular locations in a patient's body. It might even become possible to use mobile phones rather than medical scanners to detect programmed responses from later generations of the devices." In their initial trials, the team ha proved the concept works in the test tube--the switchable molecular constructs do respond as expected when presented with the right molecular signals." See full article at: 

synthetic pathogens bar coding - 

The concept of Bar Coded materials has previously been the focus of bio-defence specialists interested in forensic analysis of biological pathogens and or weaponized biological agents, which came to light during the 'Amerithrax anthrax postal attacks following 911. Much debate ensured over the Ames strain, identified in the attack, but lacking certain markers the exact origin, remained for some time quite obscure. At the time of the anthrax attack, international laboratories worked on the Ames strain, so it was not particularly riveting. Bar coding pathogens was at points considered advantageous to possible identification. The Global BioDefence article continues with:

"An early application (for bar coded materials) might be in dipstick technology --testing for specific infections in a blood or spit sample, for example. But because the polymer coating (called polyethylene glycol) is biocompatible, the researchers are hopeful that in the long run "self-authenticating medicines" based on the approach could be injected into patients to seek out diseased tissue, and report their success. 

The relevance this may have to bio-defence both in terms of identification, tracking and treatment are obvious,.particularly with military personnel, where specific threats to the war-fighter might reduce critical time gaps. In terms of synthetic biology the applications are clear as well.
Dragon voice recognition

Jill Bellamy is an internationally recognized expert on biological warfare and defence. She has formerly advised NATO and for the past seventeen years has represented a number of bio-pharmaceutical and government clients working on procurement strategy between NATO MS and Washington DC. Her articles have appeared in the National Review, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Sunday Times of London, Le Temps, Le Monde and the Jerusalem Post among other publications. She is a CBRN SME with the U.S. Department of Defence, Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Defence Information Analysis Center and CEO of Warfare Technology Analytics, a private consultancy based in the Netherlands. She is an Associate Fellow with the Henry Jackson Society, UK.

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