Nanotechnology is the process of matter manipulation at a molecular and atomic scale to create materials with new and incredibly variegated properties. This process is being thoroughly researched and has shown great potential in numerous sectors, such as healthcare, electronics and construction. Nanotechnology has revolutionised the medicine sector by bringing in new innovations in clinical applications like drug delivery, diagnostics, gene therapy and many other sectors of research.
The use of nanotechnology in healthcare has restructured new and innovative possibilities involving the application of nanoparticles in medicine which is still under development. It has brought about the creation of nano-robots for making repairs at a cellular level. The use of nanotechnology in the healthcare field has indeed paved its way to detect and treat any harm to the human body as well as treat diseases.
Nanotechnology in Medicine and Healthcare Application
The use of nanotechnology in healthcare has paved new ways in the industry of life sciences. The ability to control matters at atomic levels has given the healthcare sector a huge potential to revolutionise multitudinous aspects of medical care, including monitoring disease, regenerative medicine, surgical devices, diagnostics as well as drug delivery and vaccine development. It has given us new and innovative treatment options for a number of diseases with the help of advanced research tools. Here are a few other aspects in which nanotech has brought innovation to.
One of the major applications of nanotechnology in the field of healthcare is the use of nanoparticles to deliver drugs, light, heat or other substances to specific cells like cancer cells. These nanoparticles are engineered to target diseased cells and directly treat those cells. This technique causes less damage to healthy cells causing the disease to cure earlier.
There are ample diagnostic techniques that are being performed with nanotechnological aid. Scientists from the Worcester Polytechnic Institute are researching the potential use of carbon nanotubes in chips with antibodies attached in order to find cancer cells in the bloodstream. It is believed that this method could provide early and foolproof detection of cancer cells just through simple lab tests. The same has been developed for an inexpensive and early detection of kidney damage with the use of gold nanorods engineered to attach to the protein types generated by damaged kidneys. Accumulation of said protein on the nanorod causes the colour of the nanorod to change.
The use of nanotechnology for antibacterial treatments is constantly being researched at the University of Houston. Scientists have developed a way to kill bacteria with the use of infrared light and gold nanoparticles. This method has great potential to improve the cleaning of instruments in hospitals. Further research is being conducted at the University of Colorado Boulder where scientists are investigating how to use quantum dots to treat and cure infections that are antibiotic resistant.
Thorough research is being done at the University of Wisconsin for effective wound treatment with the help of nanogenerators. Scientists have engineered a bandage that sends electrical pulses to wounds with nanogenerators that produce electricity. When it comes to internal bleeding for trauma patients, researchers at Chase Western Reserve University have discovered another way to slow down the blood loss with polymer nanoparticles engineered to act as synthetic platelets. As per lab tests, this method has shown significant potential in slowing down rapid blood loss.
The effective use of nanotechnology for repairing cells is being extensively researched. Researchers have proposed the idea of nanorobots programmed to target and repair diseased cells, similar to the role of antibodies in natural healing processes.
Concerns about the Usage of Nanomaterials
Recently, there have been an overwhelming number of studies demonstrating the variegated use of nanomaterials and nanotechnology in medical applications. However, there are also considerable challenges, in the scaling up of the production of the proper tools and materials and how to reduce costs and time at the same time. Securing public confidence ensuring the safety of this rapidly evolving technology is also a potential hurdle because it is still a field that is not clear yet and is under thorough research. Many suggest that nanotechnology is over-exaggerated and can be dangerous. However, what we need to keep in mind is that nanoparticles have been extant ever since the birth of the Earth, in natural sea-spray and volcanic ash and also from the byproducts of human and animal activity, ever since the Stone Age. Through thorough research, scientists have proved that engineered nanoparticles are much less toxic than household cleaning products and others. It is perhaps more in the food sector that we have seen some of the greatest expansion of nanomaterials on a commercial level.
Nanomaterials used in the food industry are used to lower the fat levels and sugar levels without changing the original taste. It is primarily used to improve packaging services to maintain food freshness for a longer period of time. But, concerns regarding this have also been raised to discover the toxicological consequences on human health. These concerns are primarily involved in what ingesting these nanoparticles might result in and also the persistence and solubility of the nanomaterials used. Nanomaterials consisting of metals and inorganic metal oxides are said to most likely pose a risk. It is also possible for nanoparticles to be highly reactive because of their high surface area to mass ratio and their high mass ratio to surface area and may result in unknown chemical reactions.
It is for these reasons that the use of nanotechnology in the healthcare field is been thoroughly researched before they are let loose into the market. However, as per the NCI, most nanoparticles will be rendered harmless.
Nanotechnology in recent years, with scientific prowess, has already led to significant improvements in the field of healthcare and medicine. It is being extensively used to target and treat a myriad of diseases like tumours with nanoparticles, in the delivery of drugs and also for the improvement in medical imaging. Multiple treatments based on nanoparticles have several functions all at once. For instance, they can aid in finding tumours and cancer cells and carry drugs for the treatment at the same time. Nanotechnology has shown remarkable potential in making a huge impact on healthcare not only in the easier diagnosis of diseases but also in disease monitoring, regenerative medicine, implants, drug delivery and research tools required for the discovery of drugs and biomedical science as well.
Also Read: Different Kinds of Robots used in Healthcare