Volume 16

  • No. 11 November 2021

    Nanopore trap for protein observations

    An artistic depiction of the nanopore electro-osmotic trap (NEOtrap), formed by a DNA-origami sphere docked onto a solid-state nanopore. The leaky DNA origami plug stops protein flow through a nanopore and allows the hydrodynamic trapping and label-free observation of single proteins, enabling nucleotide-dependent protein conformation to be discriminated on the timescale of submilliseconds to hours.

    See Dekker

  • No. 10 October 2021

    Furcated droplet motility on crystals

    Artistic representation of trifurcated droplet self-propulsion in response to symmetric electric field generated by thermo-piezoelectric coupling. In the absence of any macro-/micro-asymmetry, the intrinsically orientated liquid motion is fueled by cross-scale thermo-piezoelectric coupling, a phenomenon originating in the anisotropy of crystal structure.

    See Wang, Article

  • No. 9 September 2021

    Tissue-like viscoelasticity

    A SEM image of a microelectrode array composed of an alginate matrix and carbon nanomaterial additives. All the components of the microelectrode are viscoelastic, matching the mechanical characteristics of biological tissues and allowing the device to seamlessly conform to the surfaces of the heart and the brain for bioelectronics recording and stimulation.

    See Tringides et al.

  • No. 8 August 2021

    Local bioorthogonal catalysis

    An artistic depiction of the bioorthogonal catalytic microneedle patch, a removable device for local activation of an anticancer prodrug. This improves the clinical potential of bioorthogonal catalysis by increasing the local therapeutic efficacy of systemically administered prodrugs and lessening off-target toxicity.

    Gu, Article,

  • No. 7 July 2021

    A conformable mesh for the treatment of glioblastoma

    A biodegradable implant — the μMESH, comprising an ordered array of micrometric polymeric strands deposited over a water-soluble microlayer — represents a powerful device to deploy complex combination therapies for the eradication of brain cancer and other malignancies. The compartmentalized μMESH can be efficiently loaded with small molecules, biologicals and nanomedicines. In the treatment of glioblastoma, the μMESH conforms to the surface of the resected cavity, establishes a localized high-concentration drug depot, and deploys deep into the malignant tissue a variety of therapeutic agents that would not spontaneously cross the blood/brain barrier. The μMESH micrometric architecture and mechanical flexibility facilitate its fine entanglement with the malignant mass, and dictate tumour eradication. The cover presents a μMESH in the act of wrapping around a glioblastoma tumour spheroid, demonstrating the ability to establish intimate interactions with the malignant tissue. The image was acquired by confocal microscopy with a 10× objective and results from the maximum intensity projection of multiple z-sections over a 200-μm-thick sample. In the tumour spheroid, U87-MG cells appear green (GFP+ cells) with blue nuclei (DAPI staining). The μMESH is loaded with Rhodamine B molecules returning polymeric strands with a red colouration.

    Decuzzi, Article

  • No. 6 June 2021

    Protein corona in the environment

    The protein corona acquired by nanoparticles in the environment shares many similarities with that formed on nanomedicines in the human body, but the diversity of available proteins is much higher arising from the functioning and decay of the breadth of plants, animals and microorganisms present in both aquatic and soil environments. Exploring the composition of the environmental protein corona offers an intriguing possibility to track the transport of nanomaterials through the environment and up the food chain, and to support modelling of nanomaterial transport and distribution. The cover image is an artistic depiction of the protein corona that forms in an aquatic environment, where the proteins are secreted by fish and aquatic plants, and share the nanoparticle surface with other molecules including natural organic matter and potential environmental pollutants.

    Wheeler, Review

  • No. 5 May 2021

    Tunable band structure anisotropy in 1D superlattice graphene

    Integration of artificially designed and spatially periodic superlattices (SLs) with graphene and other 2D materials offers a powerful tool for band-structure engineering of 2D van der Waals crystals. By patterning graphene with a 1D SL, a periodically varying electric potential along one axis can be designed to induce high anisotropy of the energy-momentum relation between the directions parallel and perpendicular to the SL. Furthermore, applying an electric field along one of the directions provides the possibility to further tune the SL-induced anisotropic electronic properties of such a hybrid graphene system. The cover is an artistic representation of the band structure of 1D SL graphene, where electrostatic tuning can be used to flatten and unflatten a given Dirac cone resulting in the observation of new features such as anisotropic flattened Dirac points, and side Dirac points at charge neutrality.

    Dean, Letter

  • No. 4 April 2021

    Nanotechnology and global health

    Nanotechnology offers a wide range of possible solutions to global health threats, from diagnostic devices, to innovative strategies for drug delivery, to vaccine design. These innovations have the potential to overcome basic biological challenges related to the immune response to pathogens in the case of vaccines, for example, or low on-target drug bioavailability. At the same time, they could also provide solutions to issues of a more practical nature, such as poor health infrastructures and lack of trained personnel in remote areas, or low adherence to therapeutic treatment regimen. However, despite the promises, nanotechnology-based solutions have so far struggled to have a direct and sustained impact on global health. Our Focus issue this month aims to describe the most recent nano-enabled solutions against infectious diseases, and discusses the existing challenges and possibilities associated with their implementation.

    The cover is an artistic rendering of the concept of nanotechnology for global health. The background picture is a scanning electron microscopy image of PLGA-based nanoparticles.

    See Kirtane et al.

  • No. 3 March 2021

    Mechanisms of nanoparticle endocytosis

    Endocytosis of nanoparticles into cells is a critical step in the delivery of therapeutic nanomedicines. However, there are a number of misconceptions surrounding the cellular pathways that govern this process. A Review by Rennick, Johnston and Parton summarises the latest insights into nanoparticle uptake, and highlights the limitations of current approaches to study these systems. An improved understanding of nanoparticle endocytosis can potentially help to harness cell biological mechanisms for more efficient therapeutic delivery. The image is an artistic representation of different types of nanoparticles being internalized by a cell.

    See Rennick et al.

  • No. 2 February 2021

    Enhancing catalysis via nanoscale engineering

    The stability and selectivity of catalysts in various thermo- and electrochemical applications can be enhanced by engineering the catalyst nanostructure, typically surface modifications at the sub-nano or atomic scale. Now, Mitchell et al. review the link between the nanostructure and factors that determine the stable and selective character of catalysts. The cover image is an artistic depiction of the Lindlar catalyst, an alkyne hydrogenation catalyst that has been widely used in industry for more than six decades. It is a prototypic example of modified Pd catalysts with promising selectivity and stability.

    See Mitchell et al.

  • No. 1 January 2021

    Nanomaterials for immunomodulation

    Nanomaterials offer unique opportunities to modulate and enhance the functions of the body’s immune system, interacting with different immune cells to achieve specific effects. For example, they can be used in nanovaccine formulations that deliver antigens and adjuvants to the lymph nodes to stimulate the immune response against pathogens, that is, for B cell activation. On the other hand, they can also be used to suppress the immune reaction against transplanted organs and to curb the inflammatory response against self-antigens in autoimmune diseases, by reprogramming dendritic cells to a tolerogenic phenotype. Moreover, by interacting with different subtypes of T cells, in vivo and ex vivo, nanomaterials present many opportunities to advance nanomedicine in the area of cancer immunotherapy, especially if the multiple environmental and host-related factors that may alter immune responses are taken into consideration to design preclinical experiments suited for clinical translation. On the cover, an artistic impression represents nanomaterials interacting with various immune cells such as T cells and dendritic cells to boost their antitumour responses.

    See Jiang et al.