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June 14th, 2007

Young-ish giants party on

The smallest birthday present was presented by Chad Mirkin of Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, US, who had created a portrait of Stoddart just 20 micrometres across. The image was produced by dip-pen nanolithography, a technique developed in the Mirkin group, in which an atomic force microscopy (AFM) tip writes onto a surface in molecular 'ink'. The technique is now used routinely in labs around the world for making and studying materials on the scale of just a few tens of nanometres, Mirkin told Chemistry World.

As well as miniature portraiture, Mirkin told the conference about his recent research on 'antisense nanoparticles' - tiny clumps of gold that carry strands of RNA on their surface. These strands are complementary to the messenger RNA produced when certain faulty genes are expressed in cancer cells. This means that the nanoparticles can intercept the cancer cells' mRNA before it reaches its destination, and the effect is far more pronounced than simply using the corresponding free stands of RNA.


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