Can Nanotechnology Improve Health Care?

February 2, 2012

For more than a few years a subset of scientists have been raving about the future of nanotechnology, and, like many technology booms before it, others have assumed it was over-hyped.

Fortunately, nanotechnology is showing signs of paying out. Already headed to market are improved diagnostic kits based around nano gold, where viral infections like the flu or Hep C can be identified on site, and even lung cancer detection is made less invasive.

But the most promising aspect of nanotechnology is the potential for treatment, especially when it comes to the battle against cancer.

So far, scientists have experimented with broad cancer treatments using nano gold, both to attack tumors as well as using nano sized particles to target and deliver treatment.

Cancer remains a problem because there are hundreds, if not thousands, of variables: different types and severities of cancer, different patterns of growth, different areas of the body. It’s not just one big thing, but thousands of tiny ones. Now though, scientists are experimenting with using nano technology to more specifically target cancer, to discover the path of tumour growth and to target infected cells.

In the future, nanotechnology may reduce nasty side effects of cancer treatments by isolating treatment to an area measured in nanometers, and by being able to create tailor-made treatment that is more accurate at targeting only damaged cells.

It’s a lot to ask for, and scientists still have to go through several stages of development: figuring out the most effective treatment possible, then ensuring it doesn’t hurt the body’s toxin filters the kidneys and liver. Plus, nanotechnology is entirely capable of crossing important barriers within the body, like the blood-brain barrier, magnifying potential complications. Ensuring it’s not inhaled, that it can exit the body, and that it’s not overly-complicated to enact will require years of fine tuning.

Does the use of nanotechnology—including nano sized computer parts to guide treatments—seem exciting and hopeful, or too full of pitfalls? Let us know in the comments!

Previous post:

Next post: