The use of nanotechnology in medicine offers some remarkable and exciting new possibilities. Some implementations of nanotechnology are still only imagined, whilst others are at different stages of testing or even used today.
Medical nanotechnologies involve the application of nanoparticles currently under development, in addition to long-term research that studies the application of manmade nano-robots to repair the body at the cellular level. This is also occasionally sometimes referred to as Nano-medicine.
No matter what you call it, the use of nanotechnology in the medical field could revolutionize the way in which we detect and treat disease and damage to the human body. Remarkably, many nanotechnologies that could only be imagined a few years ago are making astonishing progress towards becoming realities.
One application of medical nanotechnology currently being developed entails employing nanoparticles to transport drugs, light, heat, or other substances to certain types of cells, like cancer cells. The nanoparticles are engineered in such a way that they are attracted to diseased cells, which allows for direct treatment of those specific cells. This novel medical technique lessens damage to healthy cells in the body, and also allows for easier diagnosis of disease.
For example, nano-robots (nanoparticles) which deliver chemotherapy drugs directly to infected cancer cells are currently under development. Currently, tests are underway for targeted delivery of chemotherapy drugs and their final approval for use in cancer patients is pending. A leading nanotechnology company, CytImmune, recently published the earliest results of a first stage clinical trial of the first targeted chemotherapy drug.
An alternative medical technique delivers chemotherapy drugs to cancer cells and also applies heat to the affected cells. Scientists are using gold nano-rods to which DNA fibers are attached. The DNA fibers act as a support, which holds the nanorod and chemotherapy drug together. Then, once infrared light is focused on the cancer tumor, the gold nano-rod absorbs the infrared light, turning the light energy into heat. The resulting heat both discharges the chemotherapy drug and helps terminate the cancer cells.
Nano engineers are also developing a nanoparticle that would be able to kill viruses. The nanoparticle does not actually destroy the virus’ molecules but rather delivers an enzyme that stops the reproduction of the virus’s molecules in the patient’s blood. Some researchers are even developing nanoparticles that can deliver drugs to the brain, so as to treat neurologic disorders.
Scientists are also developing a technique to improve the immune response generated by vaccines by adding the vaccine molecules to a DNA nanostructure. This then delivers the vaccine to certain cells that are fundamental in producing white blood cells.
The future is looking bright for medical nanotechnology. I certainly can’t wait to see how patient safety improves and new medical nanotechnology will be applied next.