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Nanomedicine: Nanotechnology Medical Applications

  • Synopsis: Information regarding Nanotechnology or nanotech with a primary focus on Medical Nanotechnology or Nanomedicine.

Definition: Nanomedicine & Nanotechnology

Nanomedicine - Defined as the medical application of nanotechnology. Nanomedicine ranges from the medical applications of nanomaterials, to nano-electronic bio-sensors, and even possible future applications of molecular nanotechnology. Current problems for nanomedicine involve understanding the issues related to toxicity and environmental impact of nanoscale materials (materials whose structure is on the scale of nanometers, i.e. billionths of a meter).

Nanotechnology - (nanotech) Defined as the manipulation of matter on an atomic, molecular, and supramolecular scale. The earliest, widespread description of nanotechnology referred to the particular technological goal of precisely manipulating atoms and molecules for fabrication of macro-scale products, also now referred to as molecular nanotechnology. A more generalized definition of nanotechnology was subsequently established by the National Nanotechnology Initiative, which defines nanotechnology as the manipulation of matter with at least one dimension sized from 1 to 100 nanometers.

Main Document

Nanotechnology involves the science and technology of devices and materials, such as drug delivery systems or electronic circuits, that are created on extremely tiny scales - as small as molecules and even atoms.

The U.S. National Nanotechnology Initiative Defines the term "nanotechnology" as:

  • Research and technology development aimed to work at atomic and molecular scales, in the length scale of approximately 1 - 100 nanometer range;
  • The ability to understand, create and use structures, devices and systems that have fundamentally new properties and functions because of their nanoscale structure;
  • The ability to control - to see, measure and manipulate - matter on the atomic scale to exploit those properties and functions.

Nanotechnology also involves manipulation of structure matter at molecular levels, involving different fields and specialties such as chemistry, engineering, electronics, medicine and others. All of these fields of study and pursuit are concerned with bringing existing technologies down to a very tiny scale that is measured in, 'nanometers,' which is a billionth of a meter, or about the size of six carbon atoms in a row.

The processes used both today and in the past in the creation of industrial products have involved pushing piles of millions of atoms together through mixing, grinding and heating, a process that is very imprecise. Scientists are now able to pick up individual atoms and assemble them into structures, or cause particular chemical reactions. For example, propellers have been attached to molecular motors and electricity has been conducted through, 'nanowires.' 'Nanotubes,' made of carbon are being investigated for use in a variety of both research and industrial purposes. As the future approaches, the use of nanotechnology might find scientists able to harness the forces that operate at the scale of the nanometer, such as the Van Der Waals force. They may be able to harness the changes in the quantum states of particles for engineering purposes.

Some of the methods necessary to build structures consisting of large numbers of precisely arranged atoms include molecular self-assembly, in which molecular building blocks assemble themselves in pre-designed ways. Using this technique, researchers have created carbon nanotubes with diameters of about one ten-thousandth of a human hair that can be used as miniature structural materials, electronic components and drug-delivery systems. Scientists also depend on such tools as Scanning Tunneling Microscopes and Scanning Probe Microscopes to build images on surfaces, manipulate atoms into miniature structures, or analyze the identities of atoms and molecules one atom at a time.

One of the promising aspects of nanotechnology where improvement of the quality of human life is concerned includes the potential for new treatments for disease. Tiny autonomous robots or, 'nanobots,' might one day be sent into a person's body to cure cancer or repair cells, or possibly even extend the person's life span by a number of years. At this time the simple devices that have been created by nanotechnology are not of the complexity envisioned with nano-machines and nanobots.

Nanotechnology Background

Nanotechnology has emerged from the chemical, physical, biological and engineering sciences. Novel techniques are being developed by scientists in these fields to both probe and manipulate individual atoms and molecules. The tools these scientists have developed have enabled a variety of new discoveries regarding the ways in which properties of matter are governed by the atomic and molecular arrangements at nanometer dimensions. The discoveries that have been made have had an impact on the processing of a wide-range of devices and materials. The results have been substantial improvements in existing technologies, as well as entirely new ones. Control of the design properties, materials, as well as devices at the nanoscale is possible through exploitation of strategies which are often complemented by top-down engineering approaches.

Nanotechnology-based approaches are poised to revolutionize research biology and medicine.

In another example, with the significant progress in understanding the genetic basis of biochemical pathways that are involved in both injury and disease processes, there is a great need for highly-sensitive, real-time monitoring and detection technologies. Nanotechnology may be used to design diagnostic systems that are multi-functional and multi-analytic; ones that not only define early stage changes or progression of disease states, but also identify unique biological molecules, structures and chemicals. There are nanotechnologies related to imaging for metastasis, inflammation, and angiogenesis that are emerging. Nanotechnology and nanoscience are presenting new opportunities for the treatment and management of traumatic injuries and diseases. Multi-functional materials on nano-scales that capitalize on progress in proteomics and genomics are allowing targeted delivery of molecular therapies with enhanced efficacy.

Studies that use nanotechnology concepts and techniques and focus on biological processes have the potential to provide new insight into the physical relationships between cellular components and functional irregularities that trigger pathological abnormalities. Nanoscience and the technologies emerging from it offer a means of controlling the design and assembly of biomolecular processes that are very relevant to health and disease. In another example, while the processes involved in energy conversion offer a means of constructing a biomolecular machine through enzymology and structural biology have been studied for a number of years, nanotechnology and nanoscience present a means of creating a biomolecular machine that uses biological energy sources in new ways.

NanoTechnology, Nanomedicine, and the Future

Nanotechnologies, applied to the medical field, could allow doctors to search out and destroy the very first cancer cells that would otherwise have caused a tumor to develop. Nanotechnologies could remove a broken portion of a cell and replace it with a miniature biological machine, or deliver medicines exactly where and when they are needed. Nanomedicine is an offshoot of nanotechnology, and refers to highly-specific medical intervention at the molecular scale for curing diseases or repairing damaged tissues. The pursuit of nanomedicine on the part of researchers at the National Institute of Health (NIH) began several years ago, with results expected within ten years of their launch date in 2005.

Research into nanotechnology started with discoveries of unique chemical and physical properties of various carbon-based or metallic materials which only appear for structures at nanometer-sized dimensions. The ability to understand the scale of these properties allows engineers to build new structures and use the materials in new ways. The same thing is true for biological structures inside living cells within the human body. Researchers have been able to develop powerful tools to categorize the parts of cells in great detail; they are aware of a great amount of detail concerning how intracellular structures operate.

Still, scientists have not been able to answer certain questions.

The questions that remain involve things such as, 'How many, ' 'how big,' and, 'how fast' They must find the answers to these kinds of questions in order to fully understand cellular structures and gain the ability to repair them, or build new nanotechnology structures that can safely operate inside the human body. Once scientists have achieved this, they will be able to work with others to build better diagnostic tools and engineer nanoscale structures for specific treatments of diseases or tissues that have been damaged.

The NIH established a national network of eight Nanomedicine Development Centers to serve as the intellectual and technological centerpiece of the NIH Nanomedicine Roadmap Initiative. The centers are staffed by research teams that include physicians, biologists, engineers, mathematicians, and computer scientists. The initial phase of the program found the centers pursuing research aimed at gathering extensive information about the chemical and physical properties of nanoscale biological structures. Because of the catalog the NIH has been able to create, they are gaining a greater understanding of nature's rules of biological design that will enable their researchers to correct defects in unhealthy cells. The research requires the development of new devices for a broad range of biomedical applications, such as detecting infectious agents or metabolic imbalances, with new and tiny sensors, replacing items inside of cells with new nanoscale structures, or generating miniature devices that have the capability to search for and destroy infectious agents.

The NIH is approaching phase two of the program, which has been approved.

During phase two of the Nanomedicine initiative, the fundamental knowledge and developed tools they have acquired will be applied to both understanding and treatment of disease. The centers will continue their pursuit of knowledge, expanding it in regards to the science of nano-structures in living cells. They will gain the capability to engineer biological nano-structures, apply their knowledge, tools, and devices - and focus on targeting specific diseases.

Water Purification By Shaking Out the Nanomaterials - Michigan Technological University

Purifying water and greening nanotechnology could be as simple as shaking a vial of water and oil. At least that's the case for a new method to clean contaminated water full of unwanted nanomaterials.

Nano implies small - and that's great for use in medical devices, beauty products and smartphones - but it's also a problem. The tiny nanoparticles, nanowires, nanotubes and other nanomaterials that make up our technology eventually find their way into water. The Environmental Protection Agency says more 1,300 commercial products use some kind of nano-material. And we just don't know the full impact on health and the environment.

"These materials are very, very tiny and that means if you try to remove them and clean them out of contaminated water, that it's quite difficult," says Dongyan Zhang, a research scientist at Michigan Technological University. She adds that techniques like filter paper or meshes often don't work.

Instead, shaking up oil and water traps the nanomaterials, which can be easily removed. The process clears out nearly 100 percent of nanowires, nano-sheets, nanotubes and other one- and two-dimensional nanomaterials. Only zero-dimensional nano-spheres are still too small to grab.

The study came out recently in the American Chemical Society's journal Applied Materials and Interfaces.

Quick Facts: Nanomedicine & Nanotechnology

  • One nanometer (nm) is one billionth, or 10 to the power of 9, of a meter.
  • Nanotechnology is the engineering of functional systems at the molecular scale.
  • Nanotechnology has provided the possibility of delivering drugs to specific cells using nanoparticles.
  • Inhaling airborne nanoparticles and nano-fibers may lead to a number of pulmonary diseases, e.g. fibrosis.
  • Nanoscale materials such as nano-pillars are sometimes used in solar cells which combats the cost of traditional Silicon solar cells.
  • In the future Nanomedicine could make use of these nano-robots, introduced into the body, to repair or detect damages and infections.
  • Calls for tighter regulation of nanotechnology have occurred alongside a growing debate related to the human health and safety risks of nanotechnology.
  • Neuro-electronic interfacing is a visionary goal dealing with the construction of nano-devices that will permit computers to be joined and linked to the nervous system.
  • Two forms of nanomedicine that have already been tested in mice and are awaiting human trials that will be using gold nanoshells to help diagnose and treat cancer.
  • Nanotechnology may be used as part of tissue engineering to help reproduce or repair damaged tissue using suitable nano-material-based scaffolds and growth factors.
  • Nanotechnology may be able to create many new materials and devices with a vast range of applications, such as in medicine, electronics, biomaterials energy production, and consumer products.

Latest Nanomedicine - Nanotechnology Publications

  1. Breath Sniffer Can Identify Diseases
    Researchers develop array of nanoscale sensors to detect individual components in breath samples from patients who were either healthy or had different diseases.
  2. Hazard Assessment for Understanding Threats From Emerging Nanomaterials
    Analysis uncovers health and environmental hazards in nanosilver products already on store shelves, points to haphazard oversight and regulation by EPA.
  3. Car Exhausts Producing Nanotubes Found in Human Lungs
    Vehicles appear to produce carbon nanotubes, and some of the evidence has been found in human lungs.
  4. Brain Links from Carbon Nanotube Fibers
    Carbon nanotube fibers invented at Rice University may provide the best way to communicate directly with the brain.
  5. Magnetic Nanoparticles May Stop Blood Clot Strokes
    Loading magnetic nanoparticles with drugs and dressing them in biochemical camouflage can destroy blood clots 100 to 1,000 times faster than commonly used clot-busting technique.

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