Nanomedicine: Overview, Latest Development and Controversy
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Nanomedicine is the medical application of nanotechnology that will hopefully lead to useful research tools, advanced drug delivery systems, and new ways to treat disease or repair damaged tissues and cells. Drug delivery is currently the most advanced application of nanotechnology in medicine. Nanoscale particles are being developed to improve drug bioavailability, a major limitation in the design of new drugs. Poor bioavailability is especially problematic with newer and still experimental RNA interference therapy. Lipid or polymer-based nanoparticles are taken up by cells due to their small size, rather than being cleared from the body. These nanoparticles can be used to shuttle drugs into cells which may not have accepted the drug on its own. The nanoparticle chaperone may also be able to specifically target certain cell types, possibly reducing toxicity and improving efficacy.
The ultimate tool of nanomedicine is the medical nanorobot- robot the size of a bacterium, composed of many thousands of molecule-size mechanical parts perhaps resembling macroscale gears, bearings, and ratchets, possibly composed of a strong diamond-like material. A nanorobot will need motors to make things move, and manipulator arms or mechanical legs for dexterity and mobility. It will have a power supply for energy, sensors to guide its actions, and an onboard computer to control its behavior. But unlike a regular robot, a nanorobot will be very small. A nanorobot that would travel through the bloodstream must be smaller than the red cells in our blood – tiny enough to squeeze through even the narrowest capillaries in the human body. Medical nanorobotics holds the greatest promise for curing disease and extending the human health span. With diligent effort, the first fruits of this advanced nanomedicine could begin to appear in clinical treatment sometime during the 2020s.