UF Researchers Develop Plant-based Technology that Helps Biofuels, May Fight Cancer
Summary posted by Meridian on 3/30/2012
Source: University of Florida (29 March 2012)
Author(s): Robert H. Wells
Researchers at the University of Florida, United States, have developed a plant-based technology that could reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil and may also help treat cancer. The technology involves lignin nanotubes, which can be created in biorefineries from lignin, a plant substance that is a byproduct of bioethanol production. Bioethanol is a renewable alternative to fossil fuel that is created by fermenting sugar. Wilfred Vermerris, an associate professor in the agronomy department and Genetics Institute, said, “We’re looking at biomedical applications whereby these nanotubes are injected in the body,” adding that similar to current carbon nanotubes, the lignin nanotubes could be loaded with cancer-fighting drugs and sent to target specific tumors. The lignin nanotubes are, however, flexible and lack sharp edges - unlike currently used carbon nanotubes – meaning they are expected to have fewer toxicity issues. “It is also much easier to chemically modify the lignin nanotubes so that they can locate their intended targets like homing devices,” he said. Using the lignin nanotubes for a medical purpose could help reduce the cost of biofuel production, adds Vermerris. “By selling the nanotubes for biomedical applications, an additional revenue stream is generated for the biorefinery that can offset some of the processing costs,” he said. “That essentially reduces the price of the fuels and makes them more competitive with petroleum-based fuel.” The team is testing the technology in living cells in the lab as a first step toward testing in humans.
The original article may still be available at http://news.ufl.edu/2012/03/29/nanotech/