The NanoBiology Imperative
All living things are nanofoundries.  Nature has perfected the artform of biological nanotechnology for billions of years.  Now, an emerging technology domain is poised to present a toolkit from which new lifeforms can be crafted, the inner molecular workings of living cells can be directly manipulated, even aging may be treated not as a disease, but as a reversable pathology.   The very definition of life itself is perched at the edge of the next great revolution in medicine: nanobiology.   Currently existing are technologies and applications in the arenas of biomolecular components and biocompatible surfaces integrated into microscale systems, implantable biochip devices, synthetically engineered quasi-viral components, modified DNA, structured proteomics,  pseudoproteins, biomolecular "devices".  What is coming are artificially engineered organelles and cells, technologies which combine organic and inorganic materials and substrates into integrated nanoscale systems, "biomolecular prosthetics", and intra-cellular modification strategies which will redefine the very essense of what is commonly referred to as life.
3D rendering of a theorectical quasi-viral component, by Charles Ostman, 1993.   First patents actually issued for such "viral nano-machinery", a modified baccilovirus utilized for proteomic targeting and delivery, issued to Onyx Pharmceuticals in 1996
Dendrimer molecules, spherical branching strucutures which can be grown to very precise size and complexity configurations.  This example has antibodies attached to its outer extremities, as a biomedical "device", but dendrimer components can be utilized for a very wide range of applicaitions, including self assembling molecular systems and structures.
Molecular protein delivery to targeted, specific cell types is currently being developed as a method for instigating physiological adjustment or modifications within living cells.   In this context, protein can be viewed as being the functional equvilant of "software" which instructs the activities of biomolecular mechanisms and organelles within the cell, somewhat in the same way that machine code instructs computer processor chips to perform various functions.   Among many such examples of this process being currently studied, is the utilization of the P53 protein, which can act like a "switch" to literally shut down the metabolism of a living cell. This has potential, for instance, as a possible cure for various forms of cancer, in that the cancer cells have a genetic identity different than the original cell types from which they emanated, and therefore can be "targeted" for delivery of this P53 protein.  
Photograph of a colony of live neurons living on the surface of a biochip, from Dr. Gunther Gross, University of N Texas
Biolithography, the process of photonically instigating the binding of biomolecules to a variety of target surfaces, such as metals, glass, plastic, even teflon, was orginally patented  by BSI (now Surmodics) over a decade ago.   Now the procedure has become very robust, enabling the precise "attachment" of proteins, lipids, enzymes, even entire living cells, with molecular precision to almost any type of surface.
Above and below: 3D rendered scences from the film Nanotechnology  indicating a neural prosthetic biochip, and a "nanobot" repairing a damaged nerve axon.  Charles Ostman, and the production team from AAC, San Francisco
(above) Self assembling organic nanotubes as a strucutural system, and (left) hexagonal nanophotonic structures composed from rhodopsins (retinal proteins).  Phodopsins are extremely interesting becuase of their potential application in spatial light modulation, which facilitates optical computing and storage with biological materials - from the Theoretical Biophysics Group, U of Illinois, Urbana
                        DNA, the software
                for all living things, can also be utilized as a structural proteomic system, and a "logical" component for molecular computing.     The example configuration shown here is one of many developed by Ned Seeman at NYU, and others exploring similar concepts
Self assembling / self organizing molecular systems,
emanating from the development of applied nano-
biology, foster the creation of molecular computing platforms. The biotech industry is extremely IT and computational resource intensive, which in turn benefits directly from the advent of evermore powerful and diverse forms of computing enabled by developments in nanocomputing systems.  Biological metaphors in computing, such as genetic and evolutionary computation, currently implemented on reconfigurable computing platforms, further acclerates the pace biotech development via bioinformatics and in-silico biology processes.  Various implementations of nanocomputing components will also be able to support related versions of biolgical metaphors in computing.  
Note the computer generated "virtual protein" model.  This complex molecular structure was actually evolved, utilizing genetic algorithms on a reconfigurable computing platform to derive this proteomic solution.   This is an example of biological metaphors in computing being utilized to create the physical biological materials of our future evolution.
Dave Fogel, Natural Solutions Inc.
3D procedural rendering of a theoretical pseudo-proteomic subunit        Charles Ostman
The worlds of biotechnology and nanotechnology currently converge into nanobiology.   The first patents for utilizing a modified virus as a proteomic delivery vehicle, that being a molecular scale "device" which can seek out specific cells and deliver various materials to the inner parts of those cells,  were issued to Onyx pharmaceuticals in 1996.    In 1997, the Nanobiological Systems Group of Searle Labs (a division of Monsanto Chemical) was using dendrimer molecules, a sort of complex nanoscale branching structure which can be "grown" into very specific geometric forms, as another type of cellular targeting and delivery system.  These same dendrimer molecules also are part of a growing collection of self-assembling and self organizing "components", the leggo blocks of nanotechnology.    Now several companies have emerged into the marketplace with their versions of these dendrimer molecular systems.  
Biological materials systems provide a rich collection of options from which self-assembling and self-organizing molecular systems can be "harvested", enabling access to materials to facilitate the construction of 2D structures and 3D manifolds.   Many development programs utilizing proteomic components and other forms of biomolecular substrates which can either be used directly as functional components, or as nano-scale manipulation mechanisms for positioning other molecular subsystems, have been underway for a number of years.  
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