Nanotechnology, the manipulation of matter at atomic level is an emerging field of late 20th century. After the advancement at micro level the world is now moving towards molecular and atomic level. The concept first introduced in 1959 expanded at all levels and across the globe as we saw some of its remarkable application in fields of medicine and electronics. But as Richard Feynman first said ‘There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom’, nanotechnology has far more to offer.
Exploring nanomedicine, a recent advancement of nanotechnology which deals with the application of technology of range in nanometers (10-9) in medicine. First introduced in 1991 nanomedicine is an advancing field that can help doctors in future to diagnose, treat and prevent diseases.
Here are five ways nanomedicine can help:
Diagnostic markers and contrast scans
Imaging studies such as contrast enhances CT scan, MRI etc. can show better and in-depth imaging of human body by the use of nanoparticles. Being smaller in size and having unique properties such as quantum confinement and fluorescence, nanoparticles may have higher penetrance and specificity. Particles with these properties when used as a contrast for MRI will penetrate tumor cells and glow with exposure to light localizing the tumor and aiding in diagnoses and treatment.
Nanoparticles on sensory chips can be used for diagnosing disease by detecting specific proteins and biomarkers.
Manipulating genetics and Cellular Repair
Nanotechnology can be used to cure many inherited diseases, defects in DNA and cellular mechanism. Programmed reaction of nanoparticles or nanorobots with cellular mechanism can be directed towards desired cell proliferation and differentiation results. This can also lead us to tissue engineering which can replace diseased organs, transplantation and implants thus improving quality of life and decreasing morbidity and mortality rates.
Treating targeted cells
Promising researches have shown that nanoparticles have the possibility of delivering drugs to specific targeted cells like cancer cells or virus inhabiting cells. This will ensure maximum bioavailability of the drug to target site with faster and specific rates. Damage to healthy cells due to clearance and wide spread distribution of drug can also be minimized.
Providing surgical guide
The principle of inserting light and camera inside human body to aid in diagnoses and treatment can be applied by nanotechnology. Nanotechnology can improve the functioning of endoscopy as well. The advances then may lead to nanoparticles replacing endoscopic or laparoscopic procedures for visualizing and treating minor surgeries reducing the risk of perforation and extensive invasion. This can be achieved by nanorobot, a device directed by a computer and surgeon.
Treating systemic infection
Nanoparticles may be used remove pathogens, toxins or harmful proteins from bloodstream by binding to them. They may achieve this by engineering artificial phagocytes that will digest them or by a process similar to dialyses in which the harmful particles will bind to magnetic nanoparticles which will then be removed by applying external magnetic field, thus filtering blood. This may help to successfully cure many infections and sepsis.
In the last decade nanomedicine research and development have grown significantly and impacted the world economy. Billions of investments have been focused on application of nanotechnology in medicine to achieve advancement and improving the health care. With all the recent advancement, nanomedicine still faces limitations in the form of expenses, harmful environmental impact and the diversity in the properties of nanoparticles. But further research may help in eliminating these obstacles. We hope that the future doctors of 21st century will have a helping hand of nanomedicine in diagnoses and treatment of diseases because as far as modern medicine is concerned nano is definitely the way to go.
Written by: Maryam Fatima
About the author
A medical student following her dreams. Passionate about football who prefers to spend her time reading and writing.