The finding could have a wide range of practical implications, including helping cancer drugs to reach their target and controlling the movement of futuristic nano-machines, the scientists say. Their study is in the weekly Journal of the American Chemical Society.
Bartosz Grzybowski and colleagues note that the ability to solve a maze is a common scientific test of intelligence. Animals ranging from rats to humans can master the task. Scientists would like to pass along that same ability to anti-cancer drugs, for instance, to help these medications navigate complex mazes of blood vessels and reach the tumor.
The scientists describe an advance in that direction. They developed postage-stamp-sized mazes, and infused them with an alkaline solution, and placed a gel containing a strong acid at the exit. That created a pH gradient, a difference between the acid-alkaline levels. Oil droplets containing a weak acid placed at the entrance of the mazes developed convective flows in response to pH differences and propelled themselves along the gradient toward the exit. Since cancer cells are more acidic than other body cells, the experiment may serve as a model for designing new anti-cancer drugs that move along similar acid-based gradients to target diseased cells, the scientists suggest.
Michael Bernstein | EurekAlert!
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The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
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