A nanometer is a value that equals to one billionth of a meter. Working at such a minute level has lots of advantages over conventional technology. Nanotechnology deals with application of devices and other tools that range, roughly between 1-100 nanometers in size. Seemingly impossible tasks can be easily performed with the use of nanotechnology. It is however, important that this technology becomes easily accessible for average users. Cost-effectiveness is a factor that would play an important role in popularizing nanotechnology, so that average people can enjoy the various benefits of nanotechnology, more so in the field of medicine.
Benefits of Nanotechnology in Medicine
The use of nanotechnology is ever-expanding in today's technologically advanced world. This form of technology has many advantages over existing ones in many fields and medicine is one of them. There are numerous devices and mechanisms developed with the aid of nanotechnology that can help cure diseases/disorders in a much better and more efficient manner. The usefulness of nanotechnology can especially be seen in the treatment of cancer. Radiation therapy used in cancer treatment requires accurate targeting of affected cells. Today, nanotechnology is transitioning through the nascent stages of development; however, it is also making rapid progress in the field of medicine.
Repairing Body Cells Becomes Easy
Nanotechnology is used in the construction of miniscule devices and robots (nanobots) capable of entering the human body and performing a variety of operations; cell repairing one of them. These miniscule devices, developed with the help of nanotechnology, are also referred to as molecular machines. These machines can efficiently carry out repairing of cells, since they can distinguish molecules of one type of body cell from those of another.
Earlier, it was not possible to repair body cells individually, however, nanotechnology has made it possible. Damaged heart tissues can be repaired using nanobots. Another heart-related treatment that can be undertaken through nanotechnology is that of unclogging cholesterol-filled arteries. It is seen that healing of bone injuries takes quite a long time. In conventional techniques, scaffolds are tools used for assisting the process of bone healing. However, with the use of polymer scaffolds containing stem cells, speedy recovery of bone injuries becomes possible.
Efficient Drug Delivery
The conventional drug delivery systems are such that they need to be controlled manually. Oral intake, injections, and other such modes of manual drug delivery are, however, subject to human error. Medicines have to be consumed in a timely manner. Nanotechnology can be used for timely delivery of medicines; the existing techniques are thereby improved. The drug delivery system meant for a particular patient can be customized and pre-programmed in order to make it effective.
Devices used for implementing the delivery of drugs are known as 'nanovehicles'. Some examples of nanovehicles are microchips, layer-by-layer assembled systems, microneedle-based transdermal therapeutic systems, etc. Similar devices (polymer micelles, dendrimers, liposomes, etc.) of a bigger scale were conceptualized way back in the 1960s, however, with recent developments in nanotechnology, it is possible to create their miniature forms.
Replacing Abnormal Genes
The small size of devices used in nanotechnology prove to be of great help in the replacement of abnormal or disease-causing cells. A new possibility of dealing with genetic diseases has emerged with advances taking place in this field. Nanotechnology can be used for replacing abnormal genes (responsible for diseases) with healthier or normal ones.
Experiments in the use of nanotechnology for gene therapy were recently made by a team of scientists from the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena. Nanobots made from polymers and covered in a protein called 'transferrin' were used for these experiments. The type of gene therapy tested during these experiments is referred to as 'RNA interference'. The RNA (ribonucleic acid) used in gene therapy does the work of blocking proteins which cause diseases like cancer and blindness.
Non-invasive Imaging Tools
Nanotechnology techniques for imaging are also referred to as molecular imaging techniques. These are not used for replacing the existing imaging methods, however, complement them and improve their accuracy. The specialty of imaging techniques - which make use of nanotechnology - is that they depict the actual processes related to diseases at a molecular level.
Morphing the Stem Cells
Research in the field of stem cells has uncovered the possibility of treating a variety of diseases. Stems cells are known to possess a unique ability to transform into cells that perform specialized functions. Nanotechnology is used for morphing stem cells into specialized ones. By morphing these cells into specialized ones, the required/desired results can be attained.
The field of nanotechnology has opened many possibilities in the treatment of diseases, cell repair, gene therapy, etc. As technological developments in the field of nanotechnology continue to take place at a rapid pace, the scope of development in nanomedicine seems virtually unlimited.