Updated: Nov 18, 2020
Nanotechnology is used in many areas of medicine, but perhaps the most important use is in precision medicine. While there are some well-known problems with using general immunizations to protect against everything, precision medicine goes one step further by being able to target exactly what is needed to treat or prevent risks determined by an individual's genetics, lifestyle, environment, and more.
Nanotechnology includes the development of devices for drug delivery to specific parts of the body. This is in addition to all of the other potential uses of nanotechnology cell membranes, energy storage, mechanical structures, electronics, and more.
One area of precision medicine that is becoming more and more important is the use of sensors, or in some cases tiny computers, which can be embedded into the body to monitor certain aspects of a person's health.
An example is the work of neuro engineers from Rice University in Texas, USA. They have developed tiny implants that can interact with the nervous system and can detect certain types of seizure activity. The tiny surgical implant can electrically stimulate the brain and nervous system without using a battery or wired power supply. The neural stimulation could be useful for treating depression, obsessive-compulsive disorders, and more than a third of those who suffer from chronic, intractable pain that often leads to anxiety, depression, and opioid addiction.
The current challenge with this type of technology is the development of biological materials that can act as semiconductors and can be integrated with the nervous system. This is a challenge that is being addressed by teams around the world.
One such team from the University of Michigan has invented a device that can quickly produce large numbers of living entities that resemble very primitive human embryos.
The research led by Jianping Fu, an associate professor of biomedical engineering will allow allows scientist to observe the processes underlying the formation of the human body plan never directly observed before. Understanding these processes holds potential to reveal the causes of human birth defects and diseases, and to develop tests for these in pregnant women.
Another example is digestible sensors, which can be placed into the stomach to detect the status of the individual. These could include a small computer that can detect when someone is about to have a heart attack and can give them emergency treatment before it is too late.
Nanobots for Disease Detection and Prevention
Nanotechnology is already being used in some hospitals to prevent the spread of disease. For example, nanobots can enter the body through tiny cuts or injuries and repair the immune system.
Nanobots can also be injected directly into the bloodstream to triangulate the proper levels of certain substances in the blood. It could also be used to detect disease before it becomes a problem. Nanomachines can already be injected into the body that can self-replicate and differentiate between healthy and diseased cells.
These nano-machines can be used in the treatment and cure of cancer. They can self-replicate and destroy diseased cells while leaving normal cells alone. They can also travel throughout the body and attack certain types of cancer more effectively than other technologies such as chemotherapy.
UK based start-up Causeway Sensors uses nanotechnology to provide better candidate selection during drug development. These nano-sized chips can be used to detect early-stage cancer and other diseases.
Another start-up Nanobiotix, designs, and manufactures nanoparticles that safely enhance the efficacy of radiation therapy in the treatment of cancer. The French start-up’s product NBTXR3 is a novel radio enhancer composed of functionalized hafnium oxide nanoparticles that are administered via one-time intra-tumoral injection and activated by radiation therapy. NBTXR3 is designed to generate increased cellular destruction when activated by radiation therapy without increasing damage to healthy tissues.
Many companies are also working on developing technologies that use an unknown virus to introduce specific DNA sequences into the body's cells. These types of treatments can be very effective at treating certain types of cancer, but they can also affect normal body cells and can cause severe illness in some cases.
Innovations in Nanotechnology include the ability to create self-replicating factories in the body, to produce antibodies and other substances the body needs. Antibody Factories can also be used to produce specific types of drugs and medications that can be injected directly into the bloodstream. The benefit of such a system would be that there would be no need to waste medicine and have it sitting in a warehouse because it could be used immediately.
This can also be combined with a vaccine to create an even better medical system.
How will the technology evolve in the next 5 years?
The development of nano-machines that can be directed by the mind is still in its early stages, but it is already being used for medical purposes.
An example of this is the creation of a "nano-machine psychiatrist." By concentrating one's thoughts, it is possible to send specific commands to certain regions of the brain, and direct certain types of activity there. In this case, it is possible to direct certain types of activity in the brain to produce mental states such as peace, love, or even hallucinations.
A start-up company from Elon Musk by the name of Neuralink has recently made this possible through the development of a device they call a "neuro-chip." The chip is able to pick up and interpret the signals from the brain's individual "neurons," or the thin strands of chemicals that transmit signals. Founded in 2016, the technology has the potential to treat a wide range of neurological disorders, to restore sensory and movement function, and eventually to expand how we interact with each other, with the world, and with ourselves.
The potential for nanotechnology in medicine is incredibly high !!!! !!! We might in the future witness the creation of a "brain-boy," a person whose head a computer has been installed to give him or her the ability to directly think and create thoughts into existence.