martes, 1 de octubre de 2013

Gamers design swarms of nanoparticles for cancer research [with video]

NanoDoc (http://nanodoc.org) is a new online game to crowdsource the design of nanomedicine. It allows bioengineers and the general public to imagine nanoparticle strategies towards the treatment of cancer and test them on a virtual tumor. The challenge is to design nanoparticles that interact with each other and their environment in a way that leads to better treatment outcomes. The ultimate goal is to design nanoparticles that swarm like self-organized systems in nature. Best strategies will be tested using cancer-on-a-chip devices and large robotic swarms.

HFSP Cross-Disciplinary Fellow Sabine Hauert and colleagues authored on Thu, 26 September 2013

Cancer is the leading cause of death worldwide according to the WHO. To treat cancer, bioengineers are designing nanoparticles that can deliver drugs and therapeutics directly to tumors. Nanoparticles come in different sizes, shapes and materials. They can be loaded with drugs that are released in a controlled fashion, and coated with molecules that allow them to interact with their environment. Some of these molecules can serve as a signature to uniquely identify cancer cells.

As a result, there are many ways to design a nanoparticle. Depending on its design, the nanoparticle will move, sense and act in different ways in the tumor; changing the body of the nanoparticle will change its behavior. The challenge is to understand which nanoparticle designs will improve treatment outcome. This is a difficult problem because trillions of nanoparticles typically interact in a tumor with millions of cells. Predicting and optimizing the emergent behavior of all these nanoparticles is guess work at best.

To address this challenge, the Laboratory of Sangeeta Bhatia at MIT recently released an online game called NanoDoc (http://nanodoc.org) that allows bioengineers and the general public to imagine new nanoparticle strategies towards the treatment of cancer. It uses a realistic simulator developed at the laboratory to model how nanoparticles interact with each other and the tumor environment. The first levels of the game are used to train new NanoDocs; licensed NanoDocs are then given challenges to solve. Since its launch two weeks ago, the game has seen 10,000 visitors, 1750 players and over 40,000 simulations.

Figure: NanoDoc game to crowdsource the design of nanomedicine. The crowd designs nanoparticles and combines them into treatments (left). Treatments are then injected into a virtual tumor scenario designed by bioengineers (right). The goal is to discover ways in which nanoparticles can cooperate.
The longterm goal is to discover ways in which nanoparticles can cooperate, or swarm, like self-organized systems in nature. Select nanotreatments discovered using NanoDoc will be validated using
  1. in vitro tissue-on-a-chip constructs designed to emulate the extravasation of functionalized nanoparticles from artificial vessels into a compartment containing tumor cells and 
  2. robotic swarm systems in collaboration with Radhika Nagpal’s lab from the Wyss Institute at Harvard University.


http://nanodoc.org

Link to article in New Scientist

Link to article in Guardian

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