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  • Scientific & Technological Achievements of Iranians

    Compiled By: Firouzeh Mirrazavi

    Deputy Editor of Iran Review

    *Iranian, US Scientists Advance Toward Gene Delivery

    Iranian researchers from Tarbiat Modarres University in cooperation with counterparts from Harvard University have succeeded in the production of an appropriate carrier for gene delivery.

    In this study, a core-shell albumin-chitosan nanoparticle was designed and produced as the carrier of nucleic acids and genes, Fars News Agency reported.

    The designing stages were optimized through the surface response method. To this end, the effects of three independent parameters were investigated on the size and yield of nanoparticle loading.

    At the end, the cellular uptake of nanoparticles was studied through flow cytometry and fluorescent microscopy.

    The lack of an appropriate carrier for gene delivery is one of the most significant problems in gene therapy at present. This study can mark an important step toward this objective.

    In this research, the new core-shell albumin-chitosan nanoparticles were reportedly used in gene and antisense delivery, and the processes to optimize the size and the loading yield of the nanoparticles were carried out through the surface response method.

    According to the results, the uptake of nanoparticles cell is about 85 percent. Therefore, the nanoparticles can be considered appropriate carriers for gene delivery.

    According to Karimi, one of the Iranian researchers involved in the project, the nanoparticles have applications in pharmaceutical industries.

    The nanoparticles can also be used in simultaneous drug delivery and gene delivery (the drug is loaded in the core of the particle while the gene is loaded in the shell).

    Further investigations are required to industrialize the nanoparticles.

    *Iranians Help Design Mideast Earthquake Model

    Iranian seismologists as well as researchers from other Middle East countries have completed the first phase of the Earthquake Model of the Middle East (EMME).

    Mehdi Zare’, the deputy head of the International Institute of Earthquake Engineering and Seismology (IIEES) for research and technology, attended the concluding conference on the first phase of EMME at Istanbul’s Bogazici University.

    Zare’ said studies of the plan have been based on the Global Earthquake Model (GEM) implemented at the Zurich Polytechnic University, ISNA reported.

    Universities, research centers and research observatories working on earthquake engineering and seismology as well as the IIEES have been involved in the project since 2009.

    “The first phase of the project has been completed with the delivery of a report and a concluding session in the presence of seismologists of Middle East countries at Bogazici University,” he said.

    Zare’ noted that the GEM project, which started in the Middle East in several geographical subcategories, aims to present and update the earthquake danger map for the world.

    “Surveys have been conducted in the Middle East, mainly with Kandilli Observatory and the Department of Earthquake Engineering at Bogazici University,” he said, adding that IIEES has been participating in the project.

    Zare’ noted that technical surveys in seven technical fields have been conducted based on the results of previous studies in each Middle East states, and the analysis and matching quality of the required information to evaluate the threat of earthquake in the Middle East have been completed.

    *Iran Develops New Drug For Child Leukemia

    Iranian researchers have developed a new medicine named L-asparaginase for the treatment of child leukemia, which can be used as a neo-combined product.

    Announcing the above, Younes Qasemi, the head of Biological Center of Shiraz Medical University, noted that the drug was formerly made only by Germany, while it is now given to patients as a neo-combined drug.

    The clinical production of the drug has been completed, ISNA reported.

    Qasemi further said access to the technology, gene transfer and purification of protein are of great importance in the production of this drug.

    “The researchers separated L-asparaginase-producing bacteria after the screening process and then the L-asparaginase gene was transferred to the bacteria,” he said.

    Qasemi said the purification process was then conducted on the enzyme.

    Asparaginase is an enzyme that catalyzes the hydrolysis of asparagine to aspartic acid. Asparaginases are naturally occurring enzymes expressed and produced by microorganisms.

    The rationale behind asparaginase is that it takes advantage of the fact that all leukemic cells and some other suspected tumor cells are unable to synthesize the non-essential amino acid asparagine, whereas normal cells are able to make their own asparagines. Thus, leukemic cells require a high amount of asparagine.

    The leukemic cells depend on circulating asparagine. Asparaginase, however, catalyzes the conversion of L-asparagine to aspartic acid and ammonia. This deprives the leukemic cell of circulating asparagine, which leads to cell death.

    *Honey, Degradable Polymer As Wound Dressing

    Iranian researchers applied electrospinning process and produced a drug-carrying nanofibrous wound dressing by using an artificial and biodegradable polymer and honey.

    A wide range of biological and biodegradable materials have been electrospun in recent years to produce nanofibers, Fars News Agency reported.

    In this research, a drug carrying nanofibrous web was produced by using an artificial and biodegradable polymer through the electrospinning method.

    Honey has antibacterial and anti-inflammation properties. Many studies have been published on the effects of honey in the treatment of infections and in the prevention of wound infection.

    The combination of the unique properties of nanofibers and the natural properties of honey in the production of wound dressing is the most important characteristic of this research.

    SEM and AFM results showed that the fibers were completely homogenous with a relatively smooth surface.
    However, spindle-like beads were observed in nanofibers containing 60 percent honey. As the concentration of honey increased in the mixture, a decrease was observed in the diameter of nanofibers.

    Drug-loaded nanofibers also had a relatively smooth and homogenous surface. As the amount of drug increases, the diameter of nanofibers declined. Drug release behavior studies demonstrated a sudden initial release.

    Statistical analyses showed that the presence of honey did not have a significant effect on the process or on the behavior of drug release. Therefore, electrospun nanofibers containing honey are an appropriate medium to be used in wound dressing.

    Wounds can be dressed faster by using the achievements of this research. Honey is considered a well-known drug in traditional medical sciences, which has been loaded with drugs in this research.

    Results of the research have been published in the Journal of Applied Polymer Science, vol. 127, issue 5, pp. 4,086-4,092.

    *Iranians Produce More Efficient Solar Cells

    Iranian researchers from Sharif University of Technology, in association with counterparts from Cambridge University, synthesized corn-like titanium dioxide nanowires and improved the efficiency of dye-sensitized solar cells through light scattering management.

    The structure improves the efficiency of solar cells due to its desirable properties in light scattering as well as the high rate of electron transference, Fars News Agency reported.

    Amir Mahmoud Bakhshayesh, MS undergraduate in materials science and engineering from Sharif University of Technology, elaborated on the research.

    “The research was carried out to improve the efficiency of dye-sensitized solar cells through light scattering management, electron transference and lower recombination. To this end, corn-like titanium dioxide nanowires were synthesized through hydrothermal/solvothermal methods, and were used as a light scattering layer in the dye-sensitized solar cells,” he said.

    According to Bakhshayesh, the morphological synthesis of corn-like TiO2 nanowires through these methods was the first stage in this research.

    “After this stage, the deposition of the nanowire as the light scattering layer was carried out on a layer of nanoparticles on fluorine tin oxide (FTO) glass. Then, the assembly of the solar cell of the dye-sensitized cell was carried out in the end,” he said.

    The morphology of the synthesized nanowire enjoys the appropriate ability to scatter light and transfer electron.

    “The synthesized nanowire contains a central nanowire. Titanium dioxide nanoparticles have grown on the surface of the central nanowire. The structure has a diameter of about 40-150 nanometers while its length is about 5-20 micrometers. The surface particles have a diameter of around 60 nanometers,” he said.

    “Surface particles are in charge of the provision of the necessary specific area to adsorb pigment while the central nanowire is in charge of the creation of direct paths to inject electron.”

    Results of the research have been published in Electrochimica Acta, vol. 90, pp. 302-308.

    *Iranians Produce Breast Cancer Antigen Carriers

    Iranian researchers from Tarbiat Modarres University, in association with colleagues from Cellular and Molecular Research Institute of Shahid Beheshti University, succeeded in the production of cancer breast tumor antigen carriers.

    The carriers have so far been tested on rats and promising results were obtained, Fars News Agency reported.

    Tumor antigens have been identified for some cancers. They can be good targets for testing the immunity system.

    However, they cannot perfectly trigger the immunity system against tumor due to the fact that they are internal parts of the body and also due to their improper presentation to the immunity system. This problem can be partially overcome by using carriers that can deliver the antigens to immunity system cells and also trigger the immunity system.

    Among the advantages of using nanotechnology in this research, mention can be made of the more effective delivery of vaccines to the immunity cells, which results in more immunity responses.

    The mechanism is that body cells can receive the particles at nanometric scale compared with larger particles with greater efficiency.

    The efficiency increases when the particles can trigger the immunity system as well as carrying the antigen. The efficiency of this method is very high because the nanoparticle used in this research, which is called Bacteriophage T7, is able to carry a number of peptide molecules at once.

    This plan can be a beginning to more comprehensive researches. Taking into account the numerous abilities of particle carrying systems, projects can be designed to evaluate the produced vaccine at clinical scale.

    The performance of the systems can also be investigated on human bodies.

    Results of the research have been published in Plos One, vol. 7, issue 11.

    *Iranians Build System to Diagnose Children’s Heart Disease

    Iranian researchers have developed a smart system for diagnosing heart diseases in children.

    The system for diagnosing congenital heart diseases in children uses advanced software and hardware systems, and determines whether the child’s heart is healthy through audio signals from the child’s heart, ISNA reported.

    The system could be used as a secure tool in health centers, clinics, educational centers, schools and even universities.

    The monopoly algorithm known as ‘Arash-Band’ extracts frequency bands for different parts of heart.

    The system has been designed for the first time in the world and is supervised by professional doctors and specialists.

    Congenital heart defect (CHD) or congenital heart anomaly is a defect in the structure of the heart and vessels that are present at birth.

    Many types of heart defects exist, most of which either obstruct blood flow in the heart or vessels near it, or cause blood to flow through the heart in an abnormal pattern.

    Other defects, such as long QT syndrome, also affect the heart’s rhythm.

    Heart defects are among the most common birth deficiencies and are the leading cause of birth defect-related deaths. Approximately 9 people in 1,000 are born with a congenital heart defect.

    Many defects don’t need treatment, but some complex congenital heart defects require medication or surgery.

    Signs and symptoms are related to the type and severity of the heart defect. Symptoms appear early in life, but it’s possible for some CHDs to go undetected throughout life.

    Some children have no signs while others may exhibit shortness of breath, cyanosis, syncope, heart murmur, under-development of limbs and muscles, poor feeding or growth, or respiratory infections.

    Congenital heart defects cause an abnormal heart structure resulting in the production of certain sounds called heart murmur. These can sometimes be detected by auscultation. However, not all heart murmurs are caused by congenital heart defects.

    *Maryam Mirzakhani Receives The Simons Investigators 2013 Award 

    Maryam Mirzakhani of Stanford University is among the recipients of the Simons Investigators 2013 award in the field of mathematics. The Simons Investigators program provides a stable base of support for outstanding scientists, enabling them to undertake long-term study of fundamental questions.

    Maryam Mirzakhani is an Iranian-American mathematician, Professor of Mathematics (since September 1, 2008) at Stanford University.

    Mirzakhani's work is focused on Teichmuller theory and dynamics of natural geometric flows over the moduli space of Riemann surfaces.

    One of her major results, in joint work with Eskin and Mohammadi, is a proof that stationary measures for the action of SL2(R) on the space of flat surfaces are invariant, a deep and long-standing conjecture.

    Mirzakhani is an alumna of National Organization for Development of Exceptional Talents (NODET) Tehran, Iran (Farzanegan highschool).

    *Iranian Nanodevice Promises More Efficient Batteries

    An Iranian scientist Reza Shahbazian-Yassar, along with his colleagues at the US Michigan University, has built a nanodevice that promises the manufacture of more efficient lithium ion batteries.

    Lithium ion batteries are at the energetic heart of almost all things tech, from cellphones to tablets to electric vehicles, ISNA reported.

    That’s because they are a proven technology, light, long-lasting and powerful. But they aren’t perfect. “You might get seven or eight hours out of your iPhone on one charge, maybe a day,” says Reza Shahbazian-Yassar, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at Michigan Technological University. “This is not enough for many of us.

    A fully electric car, like the Nissan Leaf, can go up to 100 miles on a single charge. To appeal to a mass market, it should be about 300 miles. We want to increase the power of these systems.” To wring more power out of lithium ion batteries, scientists are experimenting with different materials and designs. However, the important action in a battery occurs at the atomic level, and it’s been virtually impossible to find out exactly what’s happening at such a scale.

    Now, Yassar has developed a device that allows researchers to eavesdrop on individual lithium ions and potentially develop the next generation of batteries. Batteries are pretty simple. They have three major components: an anode, a cathode and electrolyte between the two. In lithium batteries, lithium ions travel back and forth between the anode and cathode as the battery discharges and is charged up again. The anodes of lithium-ion batteries are usually made of graphite, but scientists are testing other materials to see if they can last longer. “As soon as lithium moves into an electrode, it stresses the material, eventually resulting in failure,” said Yassar. “That’s why many of these materials may be able to hold lots of lithium, but they end up breaking down quickly.

    “If we were able to observe these changes in the host electrode, particularly at the very early stage of charging, we could come up with strategies to fix that problem.” Ten years ago, observing light elements such as lithium or hydrogen at the atomic level would have been out of the question. Now, however, it’s possible to see light atoms with an aberration corrected scanning transmission electron microscope (AC-STEM). To determine how the host electrode changes as lithium ions enter it, the team built a nano-battery within the AC-STEM microscope using a promising new electrode material, tin oxide, or SnO2. Then, they watched it charge. “We wanted to monitor the changes in the tin oxide at the very frontier of lithium-ion movement within the SnO2 electrode, and we did,” Yassar said.

    “We were able to observe how the individual lithium ions enter the electrode.” The lithium ions moved along specific channels as they flowed into the tin oxide crystals instead of randomly walking into the host atoms. Based on that data, the researchers were able to calculate the strain the ions were placing on the electrodes. The discovery has prompted inquiries from industries and national labs interested in using his atomic-resolution capability in their own battery-development work. “It’s very exciting,” Yassar said. “There are so many options for electrodes, and now we have this new tool that can tell us exactly what’s happening with them. Before, we couldn’t see what was going on; we were just guessing.”

    *Dr. Hossein Eslambolchi is a recipient of the 2013 Thomas Edison Patent Award

    R&D Council Announces 2013 Edison Patent Award Winners

    Chatham, N.J. - The Research & Development Council of New Jersey has announced the winners of the 2013 Thomas Edison Patent Awards. More than 30 inventors and 12 New Jersey companies and universities will be recognized at the organization’s 34th Patent Award Ceremony.

    Alcatel-Lucent Bell Labs, AT&T, Avaya, Colgate-Palmolive, ExxonMobil, Glenbrook Technologies, JP Laboratories, NJIT, Novartis, Siemens, Tyco Electronics, and UMDNJ will be acknowledged for innovative patent work spanning twelve R&D categories, including biotechnology, communications technology, consumer, emerging technology, homeland security, industrial processes, information technology, medical devices, medical imaging, multimedia technology, pharmaceuticals, and telecommunications.

    AT&T and inventors Marian Croak and Hossein Eslambolchi will receive a patent award in the information technology category for “Method and apparatus for dynamically debiting a donation” (U.S. Patent 7,715,368), an invention that allows donors to make charitable contributions via text message. This technology enables a network to identify a particular charity, provide the designated funding to the charity, and then have the network service provider bill the original donor on its monthly bill.

    Dr. Eslambolchi is Chairman and CEO of 2020 Venture Partners and CyberFlow Analytics. Recognized as a quintessential telecommunications visionary and thought leader, he provides consulting to private equity firms, telecommunications service providers, enterprise customers, venture capitalists and start-ups in the areas of business transformation, content distribution, and wireless technology and IP communications.

    *Iranians Develop Biosensor For Diabetes Management

    A biosensor based on screen-printed electrode modified with single layer carbon nanotubes has been developed by Iranian researchers to determine the concentration of 3-hydroxybutyrate in serum.

    The precise determination of 3-hydroxybutyrate in biological samples is vital for the management of diabetes, Fars News Agency reported.

    The concentration of 3-hydroxybutyrate is usually determined through methods such as chromatography, isotopic measurements and spectrophotometry. These methods, however, are usually time-consuming and require a number of processing stages. They also need specific equipment and detectors, and a large number of professional experts.

    Dr. Kobra Omidfar, one of the executors of the plan, said, “In this study, a simple method was devised to fabricate the hydroxybutyrate biosensor by using single layer carbon nanotubes. The use of carbon nanotubes decreases the oxidation potential of NADH to -0.05 V, which is desirable for electrochemical detection.”

    Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NADH) is a substance that helps the functionality of enzymes in the body.

    The reason for the decrease in NADH potential can be explained by the use of nanotechnology and nanomaterials.

    Nanomaterials are used in the design of biosensors and immunological detection methods for increasing stability and sensitivity in addition to improving efficiency.

    Carbon nanotubes are considered appropriate options to stabilize the enzyme on the surface of electrochemical sensors due to their chemical reactivity, high stability and proper mechanical resistance. Physical adsorption and covalent bond with carbon nanotubes are among the most common methods to stabilize enzymes on the surface of these nanomaterials.

    The biosensor has low NADH oxidation potential, high sensitivity, high stability and a suitable linear range. The simplicity in the design of the biosensor makes it ideal for the design of other biosensors based on dehydrogenase.
    By creating some changes in these tests, they can be used in laboratories, clinics and houses.

    Results of the research have been published in IET Nanobiotechnology, vol. 7, issue 1, pages 1-6.

    *Noosheen Hashemi among top 50 philanthropists in Bay Area 

    Recognizing her work as the President of The HAND Foundation, Noosheen Hashemi, is named one of Gentry Magazine's top 50 philanthropists in their annual list of leading philanthropists in San Francisco, the Peninsula and Silicon Valley.

    Software industry veteran Hashemi held a variety of prestigious jobs in the tech sector, including director of finance and administration and vice president at Oracle. In 1991, she won Oracle's "Against All Odds Award" for her role in the company's financial turnaround. In 1993, she led an expansion ofOracle services as vice president of marketing and business development for the company'sWorldwide Education.Today,Hashemi is a philanthropist with a passion for entrepreneurship and economic development.

    Since 2003, she has led The HAND Foundation's efforts to prevent child sexual abuse, strengthen the global middle class, and advance the philanthropic sector. In addition to her work with The HAND Foundation,Hashemi is also a trustee of the India Community Center, and an advisory council member for the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) at Johns Hopkins University. Hashemi also co-founded and chaired PARSA Community Foundation, the first Iranian-American community foundation.

    Hashemi is amember of the Council on Foreign Relations and has been awarded the Ellis IslandMedal of Honor and CEDAW Human Rights Award for Philanthropy. She served as a board member of theNew America Foundation from2005 - 2012.

    *Iranians Produce Antimicrobial Dentistry Resins

    Iranian dentists have succeeded in the production of a nanocomposite resin by adding zinc oxide nanoparticles for maintaining the physical and mechanical properties of the resin with desirable antimicrobial properties.

    The plan has applications in industries related to dentistry, Fars News Agency reported.

    According to Dr. Sara Tavassoli from the Dentistry Faculty of Shahed University, the aim of the research is to obtain a composite resin whose mechanical and physical properties are not reduced by adding antibacterial properties.

    “In this research, zinc oxide nanoparticles were added to a preventive and treatment material in the field of dentistry, and its antibacterial, mechanical and physical properties were investigated at the same time,” she said.

    According to Dr. Tavassoli, the antibacterial properties of dentistry resins improve while their physical or mechanical properties are not reduced when zinc oxide nanoparticles are added to the resins.

    Since the formation of cavity is an infectious disease and bacteria play an important role in it, the use of antibacterial composite resins will help prevent secondary cavity.

    Results of the research showed that the addition of zinc oxide nanoparticles to the composite resin in all investigated percentages (1-5 weight percent) significantly reduces the growth of Streptococcus mutans, and it does not change the mechanical properties in 1-2 weight percentages.

    Results of the research have been published in Dental Materials, vol. 29, issue 5.

    For more information about the research, study the full article on pages 495-505 in the same journal.

    *Faster Treatment Of Third-Degree Burns

    Taking into consideration the biological and high antimicrobial properties of chitosan and the characteristics of nanofibers, including its porosity and three-dimensional structure, Iranian researchers have produce antibacterial nanofibrous coatings with the ability to speedily cure third-degree burns.

    When the nanofibrous coatings are applied on the cuts and deep burns, biochemical signals are formed to speed up the treatment of wounds, Fars News Agency reported.

    Due to their hydrophilic properties and high porosity, the coatings are able to take out infection and blood from the wound surface. They also provide the required humidity for the faster treatment of the wound surface.

    The properties of the nanometric dimension of the coatings enable the scaffold to form a structure similar to that of the matrix of the skin tissue.

    Therefore, the nanofibrous coating is able to adsorb fibroblast and, consequently, collagen regeneration and treatment occur at a faster speed.

    The main characteristic of this research is the combination of the perfect biological properties of chitosan with unique characteristics of nanofibers and the buildup of a biocompatible scaffold, which can treat wounds caused by cuts or burns in the form of cell-free scaffold or scaffold with stem cell.

    The coating itself has antibacterial properties and contrary to other bandages, it does not need any lotion or antibiotics. It also does not cause immunological or allergic responses due to the presence of nanomteric fibers made of biocompatible polymer.

    On the contrary, it suggests to the body that a tissue similar to the original tissue has been placed in the wound, and therefore, speeds up the creation of biochemical signals necessary for the treatment of wounds.

    Results of the research have been published in IET Nanobiotechnology, vol. 6, issue 4. For more information about the research, study the full article on pages 129-135 in the same journal. 

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