Saturday, January 23, 2010

Bions, biologically related and structurally similar ion complexes

John D. Young and Jan Martel recently introduced the term bion for biologically related and structurally similar ion complexes [1]. They have produced an entire family of such structures by engineering nanobacteria-like particles to prescribed compositions. Young and Martel explain:
Bions come in all sizes and shapes and they can mimic biological forms that appear alive. Beyond demonstrating the nonliving nature of nanoparticles, they promise to further elucidate how building materials consisting of tiny nanoblocks are fabricated and assembled in nature.
Note: In debates concerning the safety/danger of nanotechnology one should always keep in mind that there are man-made nanoparticles and naturally occurring nanoparticles (mineral-organic assemblies), as the reports by Young and Martel (and also others) showcase nicely. Benefits and hazards of nanoparticles—similar to “toxic plants” that play roles as poison as well as pharmaceutical resources—should not be discussed in generalized whether or not terms, but in terms of specific nanostructures and their properties. Bions should make a significant topic in such discussions and, certainly, in future research.

Keywords: microbiology, materials science, nanoparticles, mineral-protein interaction, health and safety

References and selected links
[1] John D. Young and Jan Martel: The Rise and Fall of Nanobacteria. Scientific American January 2010, Volume 302, Number 1, pp. 52-59.
[2] Jan Martel and John D. Young: Purported nanobacteria in human blood as calcium carbonate nanoparticles. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA (PNAS) April 2008, Volume 105, Number 14, pp. 5549-5554.
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