News: The Best is Yet to Come!
The Best is Yet to Come!
the use of nanotechnology in medicine
By Nathan Holwell
Though there have been many life-changing medical discoveries in the past 100 years, I believe that the most profound discoveries are yet to come. Nanotechnology has not only provided the drive for better materials and faster electronics, but it has also revolutionized medicine. Medicine at its core is mainly about how molecules interact with certain systems in your body, which is the definition of nanotechnology in medicine, or nanomedicine. One of the goals of nanomedicine is to create different molecules that will be able to combat diseases, like cancer, with greater efficacy.This branch of medicine, dubbed molecular medicine, will be able to utilize nanotechnology in ways that doctors and scientists have only dreamed possible. The following topics show how the research of nanomedicine is going to change the world of medicine forever.
One of the most destructive diseases of our century is cancer. Nanomedicine has developed unique and creative ways to combat cancer. It may be possible to formulate a new therapeutic drug or molecular machine to completely eradicate cancer from the human body with the use of nanotechnology. However these solutions are time-consuming and expensive, and both of these factors need to be minimized in order for them to be the new method for treating cancer. This growing sector has the potential to cure many of the diseases which people all over the world suffer from every day.
A lot of the focus in nanotechnology regarding medicine has been associated with nanoparticles, which are particles measured at a nanoscale. Varieties of nanoparticles exist, from metallic to liposomal. Just imagine that you are in the Magic School Bus with Ms. Frizzle and you are able to travel through the body with complete control. Nanoparticles offer the ability for therapeutic drugs to become more effective and imaging technologies to be more accurate. It turns out that bigger is not always better with nanmomedicine, as the size of the nanoparticle will depend on where it travels in the body.
Firstly, inert metals such as gold, platinum, silver, and palladium are some of the materials used as shells for metallic nanoparticles. More accurate imaging technologies is also possible, for example metallic nanoparticles can interact with a magnetic field (ie, MRI) or other types of nanoparticles can bonded to a fluorescent chemical to make it visible. With all nanoparticles, the desired released therapeutic drug is contained within the shell, however the mechanism with which this drug can be released can vary. With respect to metallic nanoparticles, the drug can be released either by irradiating it with a laser of known frequency or the use of an alternating magnetic field.
Another type of nanoparticle is a polymeric nanoparticle, which could consist of a biodegradable polymer, like cellulose, to encapsulate the targeting drug. Additionally there are liposomal nanoparticles which consist of a phospholipid, a lipid that is essential in the creation of cells, mono layer or bilayer. These last two classes of nanoparticles are heavily dependent on hydrophilicity, or how much the molecule is attracted to water. To release the drug contained within their core, this class of nanoparticles depend on the enhanced permeability and retention effect. This effect is unique to cancer cells allowing these nanoparticles to be absorbed by tumours and once inside organelles work to digest these nanoparticles releasing the drug and inducing the desired effect. After the effect has taken place they are excreted by the renal......well I think you can imagine how that's done.
TO THE FUTURE AND BEYOND
Nanotechnology in medicine is not only about nanoparticles, as with this new concept a complete restructuring of how medicine is delivered must be developed. Patients will not have to spend as much time at the possible and maybe one day it may be possible to inject yourself with some diagnostic nanoparticle that would be able to measure pertinent data for your doctor and then it could be sent to them all from the comfort of your home. Researchers are also looking into nanomedicine to prevent the spread of disease not with therapeutic drugs but with the use of viruses to deliver RNA to change the expression of genes in some diseases.
The future of nanotechnology and medicine involves optimizing the conditions of these nanoparticles to make them ready to use in humans. New formulations and applications will arise as more research and funding is focused towards this ever-expanding field. The imitation of nature, also known as biomimetics is having a profound effect on medicine as nature's atomic structure has already had millions of years to find the almost perfect conditions. Medical professional and researchers alike are looking to nature for future developments not only in nanomedicine, but in other fields as well.
Like with the boom of computers, nanotechnology will not only affect the medical field but also every sector of the known world, from wine to hockey sticks. These effects do not come without challenges for the researchers of today and tomorrow, but what is certain is that we stand at a pivotal point in time, and are now looking forward to a new future where innovation and technology will certainly have far reaching effects on the lives of billions of people.
(If you are very interested in this subject and would like to learn more I would suggest you start with the articles in the reference section)
E. Avallone, T. Baumeister, A. Sadegh, Introduction to Nanotechnology, 11th Edition of book, : McGraw-Hill Professional,
A. Wang, R. Langer, O. Farokzhad, " Nanoparticle Delivery of Cancer Drugs," Annual Review of Medicine, Vol. 63, September 1, 2011.