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March 17th, 2010
A swarm of microscopic particles races through the body to attack cancer cells. Each particle carries a critical ingredient to destroy the cancer — a protein found in bee venom.
Attacking a tumor takes a different twist. Minuscule gold particle "bombs" detonate, destroying unhealthy cells while bypassing healthy ones.
It sounds a bit futuristic, but St. Louis-area scientists are manipulating individual atoms and molecules to create structures and materials so small that a thousand could fit in the dot above an "i."
And many of them believe that thinking small — very small — could help treat big-name diseases. In fact, one newly formed St. Louis research consortium is fostering new research that relies on nanotechnology to combat illnesses like cancer and kidney and heart disease.
Funded with money from the 1998 state tobacco settlement, the St. Louis Institute of Nanomedicine hopes to establish the area as a hub for nanomedicine research, much in the same way a niche in biotechnology research has been carved out here.
The institute is encouraging new collaborations among scientists already working in the nanotechnology field at local academic institutions. Washington University, St. Louis University, the University of Missouri-St. Louis and St. Louis Community College make up the institute's founding partners.
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