Behold Nanomedicine: An Era to Come and Conquer

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Nanomedicine is a developing branch of medicine that applies the use of nanotechnology. The intricate nature of nanotechnology makes it an indispensable tool that is currently lacking in the field. Doctors will have unprecedented access to the human body through manipulation of matter at the atomic scale. Undoubtedly, it will be a key component in the fight against disease.

Nanotechnology in medicine is going to have a major impact on the survival of the human race.

Bernard Marcus, American billionaire

Nanomaterials are simply materials on the nanoscale, anything that ranges between 1-150 nanometers (one billionth of a meter). They are what make a nanobot: exhibiting unique properties programmed for its particular function: may that be drug delivery, blood purification etc. But a nanobot isn’t what movies portray it to be: a miniature gadget coursing through our veins and managed externally with a remote. Instead it is a small device that is programmed to perform a particular function.

One such function is drug delivery. Normally, drugs work through the entire body before they reach the disease-affected area. Using nanotechnology, the drug can be targeted to a precise location which would make the drug much more effective and reduce the chances of possible side effects. As well as this, the time taken to reach this area falls: making it a faster way to recuperate diseased tissue. An aspect of this mechanism is crossing the blood brain barrier (explained here) , which nanobots can help with too. Their surfaces can be coated with certain materials such that they bypass the barrier. In the future, nanobots could even emulate antibodies and be programmed to repair specific diseased cells which they are complementary to.

Nanobots can monitor and then report internal conditions like blood sugar levels or vascular accumulation of fats and cholesterol. This information can detect Type 2 diabetes, atherosclerosis, etc. very early and therefore make diagnosing faster, in turn making treatment more effective. It follows that nanobots can also intervene in cardiac problems such as atherosclerosis to remove fatty deposits. Invasive procedures to widen arteries are no longer needed: showing how nanotechnology has great potential to disrupt the medical field for the better.

These ideas are in the works right now and are likely to be a standard part of medicine in a few years. Other ideas are still in the research phase but pose to be as valuable. For example, a nano-generator. Humans have harnessed the power of nature ( water, wind, heat etc. ) to generate electricity for decades. Recently, using principles similar to those deployed in large power plants, a team of Chinese researchers has developed a tiny nano-generator. It sits inside a vessel and generates electricity from blood flow. Though the energy produced isn’t large, the internal supply of electricity could be very useful to our bodies. It could, in theory, be a viable solution to Parkinson’s disease: this is through electrical self-stimulation of the brain. It was an idea explored before by Swiss researchers in 2011. But, their turbine had a tendency to produce lethal blood clots, making it too dangerous to take any further.

Artificial blood: another way that nanotechnology could possibly redefine medicine itself. Several attempts have been made at reproducing this complex mesh of cells, salts, proteins and fine liquid. Though always coming short in one aspect or another, researchers have recently found that mimicking just one function of blood can make it a lifesaving invention. For example, the phenomenon of clotting. University of Maryland, Baltimore engineers are developing a synthetic polymer that binds with platelets and quickens their accumulation to catalyse clotting. And Haima Therapeutics’s clotting substitute, Synthoplate, is currently in pre-clinical animal testing. These substitutes would be revolutionary for traumatic injuries, particularly in combat.

Despite its capabilities, nanotechnology has pressing toxic issues, and mitigating these toxins is an impediment scientists are still to overcome. Nanotechnology’s promise is huge, but at the end of the day, it will be research into the alleviation of its risks that will serve most vital in the future of nanomedicine.


References

  1. Science Direct “Nanobots” (2018) https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/engineering/nanobots
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  10. Tech Radar “This teeny hydroelectric generator can harvest energy from your blood flow” (2017) https://www.techradar.com/news/this-teeny-hydroelectric-generator-can-harvest-energy-from-your-bloodflow
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