Nanotechnology in Medicine -
The use of nanotechnology in medicine offers some exciting possibilities. Some techniques are only imagined, while others are at various stages of testing, or actually being used today.
Nanotechnology in medicine involves
applications of nanoparticles currently under development, as well as longer range research that involves the use of manufactured nano-robots
to make repairs at the cellular level (sometimes referred to as nanomedicine).
Whatever you call it, the use of nanotechnology in the field of medicine could
revolutionize the way we detect and treat damage to the human body and disease
in the future, and many techniques only imagined a few years ago are making
remarkable progress towards becoming realities.
Nanotechnology in Medicine Application: Drug Delivery
One application of nanotechnology in medicine currently being developed involves
employing nanoparticles to deliver drugs, heat, light or other substances to
specific types of cells (such as cancer cells). Particles are engineered so that
they are attracted to diseased cells, which allows direct treatment of
those cells. This technique reduces damage to healthy
cells in the body and allows for earlier detection of disease.
For example, nanoparticles that
deliver chemotherapy drugs directly to cancer cells are under development. Tests
are in progress for targeted delivery of chemotherapy drugs and their final
approval for their use with cancer patients is pending. One company, CytImmune has published the results of a
Clinical Trial of their first targeted chemotherapy drug and another
company, BIND Biosciences, has published preliminary results of a
Phase 1 Clinical Trial for
their first targeted chemotherapy drug and is proceeding with a
Phase 2 Clinical Trial.
Researchers at the Wyss Institue are testing nanoparticles that release drugs when subjected
to sheer force, such as occurs when passing through a section of artery
that is mostly blocked by a clot. The drugs are used to dissolve the
clot. Read more about their study
Researchers at the University of Illinois have demonstated that
nanoparticles can be used to deliver drugs to damaged brain tissue.
Researchers at MIT using
nanoparticles to deliver vaccine.The nanoparticles protect the
vaccine, allowing the vaccine time to trigger a stronger immune
Reserchers are developing a method to release insulin that uses a
sponge-like matrix that
contains insulin as well as nanocapsules containing an enzyme. When
the glucose level rises the nanocapsules release hydrogen ions, which
bind to the fibers making up the matrix. The hydrogen ions make the
fibers positively charged, repelling each other and creating openings in
the matrix through which insulin is released.
Researchers are developing a
can be taken orally and pass through the lining of the
intestines into the bloodsteam. This should allow drugs that must
now be delivered with a shot to be taken in pill form.
Researchers are also developing a nanoparticle to defeat viruses. The
nanoparticle does not actually destroy viruses molecules, but delivers an
enzyme that prevents the reproduction
of viruses molecules in the patients bloodstream.
Read more about nanomedicine in drug delivery
Nanotechnology in Medicine Application: Therapy Techniques
Researchers have developed "nanosponges" that absorb toxins and remove
them from the bloodstream. The
nanosponges are polymer nanoparticles coated with a red blood cell
membrane. The red blood cell membrane allows the nanosponges to travel
freely in the bloodstream and attract the toxins.
Researchers have demonstrated a method to generate sound waves that are
powerful, but also tightly focused, that may eventually be used for
noninvasive surgery. They use a
lens coated with
carbon nanotubes to convert light from a laser to focused sound
waves. The intent is to develop a method that could blast tumors or other diseased areas without damaging healthy
Researchers are investigating the use of
to concentrate radiation used in radiation therapy to treat cancer tumors.
Initial results indicate that the bismuth nanoparticles would increase the
radiation dose to the tumor by 90 percent.
Nanoparticles composed of polyethylene glycol-hydrophilic carbon clusters
(PEG-HCC) have been shown to
absorb free radicals
at a much higher rate than the proteins out body uses for this function. This
ability to absorb free radicals may reduce the harm that is caused by the
release of free radicals after a brain injury.
Targeted heat therapy
is being developed to destroy breast cancer tumors. In this method
antibodies that are strongly attracted to proteins produced in one type
of breast cancer cell are attached to nanotubes, causing the nanotubes
to accumulate at the tumor. Infrared light from a laser is absorbed by
the nanotubes and produces heat that incinerates the tumor.
Read more about nanomedicine therapy
Nanotechnology in Medicine Application: Diagnostic Techniques
Reseachers at MIT have developed a sensor using carbon nanotubes
embedded in a gel; that can be injected under the skin to
monitor the level of
nitric oxide in the bloodstream. The level of nitric oxide is
important because it indicates inflamation, allowing easy monitoring of
imflammatory diseases. In tests with laboratory mice the sensor remained
functional for over a year.
Researchers at the University of Michigan are developing a sensor that
can detect a very low level of cancer cells, as low as 3 to 5 cancer
cells in a one milliliter in a blood sample. They grow sheets of
graphene oxide, on
which they attach molecules containing an antibody that attaches to the
cancer cells. They then tag the cancer cells with fluorescent molecules
to make the cancer cells stand out in a microscope.
Researchers have demonstrated a way to use nanoparticles for
early diagnosis of
infectious disease. The nanoparticles attach to molecules in the
blood stream indicating the start of an infection. When the sample is
scanned for Raman scattering the nanoparticles enhance the Raman signal,
allowing detection of the molecules indicating an infectious disease at
a very early stage.
A test for early detection of kidney damage is being developed. The method uses
gold nanorods functionalized to attach to the type of protein generated by
damaged kidneys. When protein accumulates on the nanorod the color of the
nanorod shifts. The test is designed to be done quickly and inexpensively for
early detection of a problem.
Read more about nanomedicine
Nanotechnology in Medicine Application: Anti-Microbial Techniques
One of the earliest nanomedicine applications was the use of
nanocrystalline silver which is as an antimicrobial agent for the
treatment of wounds, as discussed on the
Pharmaceuticals Corporation website.
A nanoparticle cream has been shown to fight staph infections. The
contain nitric oxide gas, which is known to kill bacteria. Studies
on mice have shown that using the nanoparticle cream to release nitric
oxide gas at the site of staph abscesses significantly reduced the
Burn dressing that is coated with
antibotics. If a infection starts the harmful bacteria in the wound causes
the nanocapsules to break open, releasing the antibotics. This allows much
quicker treatment of an infection and reduces the number of times a dressing has
to be changed.
A welcome idea in the early study stages is the
elimination of bacterial infections in a patient within minutes,
instead of delivering treatment with antibiotics over a period of weeks.
You can read about design analysis for the antimicrobial nanorobot used in such
treatments in the following article:
Mechanical Phagocytes using Digest and Discharge Protocol.
Nanotechnology in Medicine Application: Cell Repair
actually be programmed to repair specific diseased cells, functioning in
a similar way to antibodies in our natural healing processes. Read
about design analysis for one such cell repair nanorobot in this article: The Ideal Gene Delivery
Vector: Chromallocytes, Cell Repair Nanorobots for Chromosome Repair Therapy
Nanotechnology in Medicine: Company Directory
||Gold nanoparticles for targeted
delivery of drugs to tumors
||Nanoemulsions for nasal delivery to fight viruses (such as the flu
and colds) or through the skin to fight bacteria
More nanomedicine companies
Nanotechnology in Medicine: Resources
National Cancer Institute Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer;
This alliance includes a Nanotechnology Characterization Lab as well as
Centers of Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence.
Alliance for NanoHealth; This alliance includes eight research institutions performing
European Nanomedicine platform
Institute of Health (NIH) is funding research at eight
Page 2: Nanomedicine based upon nano-robots
Earl Boysen of Hawk's Perch Technical Writing, LLC and
UnderstandingNano.com. You can find him on