Nanotechnology and Medicine

Nanotechnology is technology that works at the nano scale (One nanometer is one billionth of a meter). Nanomedicine is utilizing nanotechnology for medical purposes. Other terms include biomedical nanotechnology, nanobiotechnology and bionanotechnology.

Two forms of nanomedicine that are awaiting human trials that will be using gold nanoshells to help diagnose and treat cancer, and using liposomes as vaccine adjuvants and as vehicles for drug transport. Properly configured nanoparticles can evade detection and clearing by the immune system. Nanotechnology has provided the possibility of delivering drugs to specific cells using nanoparticles.


Examples of Nanomedicine Applications

Contrast agents for cell imaging

Nanoparticles of cadmium selenide (quantum dots) glow when exposed to ultraviolet light. When injected, they seep into cancer tumors. The surgeon can see the glowing tumor, and use it as a guide for more accurate tumor removal.

Therapeutics for treating cancer

Gold nanoshells can be targeted to bond to cancerous cells. By irradiating the area of the tumor with an infrared laser, which passes through flesh without heating it, the gold is heated sufficiently to cause death to the cancer cells.

Medical applications of nanomaterials

At Rice University, a flesh welder is used to fuse two pieces of chicken meat into a single piece. The two pieces of chicken are placed together touching. A greenish liquid containing gold-coated nanoshells is dribbled along the seam. An infrared laser is traced along the seam, causing the two sides to weld together. This could solve the difficulties and blood leaks caused when the surgeon tries to restitch the arteries that have been cut during a kidney or heart transplant.

Nanoelectronic biosensors

Diagnostic devices

Nanotechnology is helping to advance the use of arthroscopes, which are pencil-sized devices that are used in surgeries with lights and cameras so surgeons can do the surgeries with smaller incisions. The smaller the incisions the faster the healing time which is better for the patients. It is also helping to find a way to make an arthroscope smaller than a strand of hair.

Physical therapy applications

Drug delivery vehicles

In photodynamic therapy, a particle is placed within the body and is illuminated with light from the outside. The light gets absorbed by the particle and if the particle is metal, energy from the light will heat the particle and surrounding tissue.

Neuro-electronic interfaces

Neuro-electronic interfacing is a visionary goal dealing with the construction of nanodevices that will permit computers to be joined and linked to the nervous system.

Tissue repair

Nanotechnology may be able to help reproduce or repair damaged tissue. "Tissue engineering" makes use of artificially stimulated cell proliferation by using suitable nanomaterial-based scaffolds and growth factors. For example, bones could be regrown on carbon nanotube scaffolds. Tissue engineering might replace today's conventional treatments like organ transplants or artificial implants.

Molecular nanotechnology

Molecular nanotechnology is a speculative subfield of nanotechnology regarding the possibility of engineering molecular assemblers, machines which could re-order matter at a molecular or atomic scale. Nanomedicine would make use of nanorobots (e.g., Computational Genes), introduced into the body, to repair or detect damages and infections. Carbon could be the primary element used to build these nanorobots due to the inherent strength and other characteristics of some forms of carbon (diamond/fullerene composites), and nanorobots would be fabricated in desktop nanofactories specialized for this purpose.

Source: Wikipedia




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