If they keep going like this, carbon nanotubes will be able to wear a giant S on their chests. Their latest technological triumph is a potentially massive one, the ability to fight HIV.
Scientists at Stanford University have reported being able to use the nano-sized multitaskers for RNA interference, enabling an immune system wracked by the virus that causes AIDS to switch off the gene that controls the mechanism by which the disease spreads.
The problem up until now has been that such interference isn’t effective enough because the RNA can’t just burrow into cells on its own. It needs help. But cell membranes are notoriously stubborn and resistant to such tinkeringuntil now. Even though scientists still can’t explain just how the carbon nanotubes got in there, they did report that the little RNA carriers delivered their payload to its destination and that the receptor proteins that helped spread AIDS decreased by 80 percent.
That’s just the first step, although it’s really a giant leap. What lies ahead is more testing and more refining and more head-scratching as to just how those nanotubes do what they do. The tests done so far have been outside a human body. What needs to be done next is in vivo experimentation.