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Nanomedicine is one of the applications of nanotechnology and it uses ranges from the medical applications ofÂ nanomaterials toÂ nanoelectronic biosensors. Present difficulties of nanomedicine includes realizing the issues rconnected toÂ toxicityÂ and environmental.Nanomedicine expects to produce precious tools and useful devices in coming future.
Â TheÂ National Nanotechnology InitiativeÂ expects new commercial applications in theÂ pharmaceutical industryÂ that may include advanced drug delivery systems, newÂ therapies, andÂ in vivoÂ imaging.Â Neuro-electronic interfaces and otherÂ nanoelectronics-based sensors are another active goal of research. Further down the line, theÂ speculativeÂ field ofÂ molecular nanotechnologyÂ believes thatÂ cell repair machinesÂ could revolutionize medicine and the medical field.
Nanomedicine is a large industry, with nanomedicine sales reaching 6.8 billion dollars in 2004, and with over 200 companies and 38 products worldwide, a minimum of 3.8 billion dollars in nanotechnology R&D is being invested every year.[Â As the nanomedicine industry continues to grow, it is expected to have a significant impact on the economy.
2. Different Methods of delivery of nanomedicine
2.1 Drug delivery
Nanomedical approaches toÂ drug deliveryÂ centre on developingÂ nanoscale particlesÂ or molecules to improve drugÂ bio availability. Bioavailability refers to the presence of drug molecules where they are needed in the body and where they will do the most good. Drug delivery focuses on maximizing bioavailability both at specific places in the body and over a period of time. This can potentially be achieved by molecular targeting by nanoengineered devices.Â It is all about targeting the molecules and delivering drugs with cell precision. In vivoÂ imaging is another area where tools and devices are being developed. UsingnanoparticleÂ contrast agents, images such as ultrasound and MRI have a favourable distribution and improved contrast. The new methods of nanoengineered materials that are being developed might be effective in treating illnesses and diseases such as cancer. What nanoscientists will be able to achieve in the future is beyond current imagination. This might be accomplished by self assembled biocompatible nanodevices that will detect, evaluate, treat and report to the clinical doctor automatically.
Drug delivery systems, lipid- or polymer-based nanoparticles,Â can be designed to improve theÂ pharmacologicalÂ and therapeutic properties of drugs.Â The strength of drug delivery systems is their ability to alter theÂ pharmacokineticsÂ andÂ bio distributionÂ of the drug. Nanoparticles have unusual properties that can be used to improve drug delivery. Where larger particles would have been cleared from the body, cells take up these nanoparticles because of their size. Complex drug delivery mechanisms are being developed, including the ability to get drugs through cell membranes and into cellÂ cytoplasm. Efficiency is important because many diseases depend upon processes within the cell and can only be impeded by drugs that make their way into the cell. Triggered response is one way for drug molecules to be used more efficiently. Drugs are placed in the body and only activate on encountering a particular signal. For example, a drug with poor solubility will be replaced by a drug delivery system where both hydrophilic and hydrophobic environments exist, improving the solubility. Also, a drug may cause tissue damage, but with drug delivery, regulated drug release can eliminate the problem. If a drug is cleared too quickly from the body, this could force a patient to use high doses, but with drug delivery systems clearance can be reduced by altering the pharmacokinetics of the drug. Poor bio distribution is a problem that can affect normal tissues through widespread distribution, but theÂ particulatesÂ from drug delivery systems lower the volume of distribution and reduce the effect on non-target tissue. Potential nanodrugs will work by very specific and well-understood mechanisms; one of the major impacts of nanotechnology and nanoscience will be in leading development of completely new drugs with more useful behaviour and less side effects.
2.2 Protein and peptide delivery
Protein and peptides exert multiple biological actions in human body and they have been identified as showing great promise for treatment of various diseases and disorders. These macromolecules are calledÂ biopharmaceuticals. Targeted and/or controlled delivery of these biopharmaceuticals usingÂ nanomaterialsÂ likeÂ nanoparticlesÂ andÂ DendrimersÂ is an emerging field calledÂ nanobiopharmaceutics, and these products are calledÂ nanobiopharmaceuticals.
A schematic illustration showing how nanoparticles or other cancer drugs might be used to treat cancer.
The small size of nanoparticles endows them with properties that can be very useful inÂ oncology, particularly in imaging. Quantum dots (nanoparticles with quantum confinement properties, such as size-tunable light emission), when used in conjunction with MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), can produce exceptional images of tumour sites. These nanoparticles are much brighter than organic dyes and only need one light source for excitation. This means that the use of fluorescent quantum dots could produce a higher contrast image and at a lower cost than today's organic dyes used asÂ contrast media. The downside, however, is that quantum dots are usually made of quite toxic elements.
Another nanoproperty, high surface area to volume ratio, allows many functional groups to be attached to a nanoparticle, which can seek out and bind to certainÂ tumour cells. Additionally, the small size of nanoparticles (10 to 100 nanometres, allows them to preferentially accumulate at tumor sites (because tumors lack an effective lymphatic drainage system). A very exciting research question is how to make these imaging nanoparticles do more things for cancer. For instance, is it possible to manufacture multifunctional nanoparticles that would detect, image, and then proceed to treat a tumor? This question is under vigorous investigation; the answer to which could shape the future of cancer treatment. A promising new cancer treatment that may one day replace radiation and chemotherapy is edging closer to human trials.Â Kanzius RFÂ therapy attaches microscopic nanoparticles to cancer cells and then "cooks" tumors inside the body with radio waves that heat only the nanoparticles and the adjacent (cancerous) cells.
Sensor test chips containing thousands of nanowires, able to detect proteins and other biomarkers left behind by cancer cells, could enable the detection and diagnosis of cancer in the early stages from a few drops of a patient's blood.
The basic point to use drug delivery is based upon three facts: a) efficient encapsulation of the drugs, b) successful delivery of said drugs to the targeted region of the body, and c) successful release of that drug there.
Researchers atÂ Rice UniversityÂ under Prof. Jennifer West have demonstrated the use of 120Â nm diameterÂ nanoshellsÂ coated with gold to kill cancer tumors in mice. The nanoshells can be targeted to bond to cancerous cells by conjugatingÂ antibodiesÂ orÂ peptidesÂ to the nanoshell surface. By irradiating the area of the tumor with an infrared laser, which passes through flesh without heating it, the gold is heated sufficiently to cause death to the cancer cells.
Nanoparticles ofÂ cadmium selenideÂ (quantum dots) glow when exposed to ultraviolet light. When injected, they seep intoÂ cancerÂ tumors. The surgeon can see the glowing tumor, and use it as a guide for more accurate tumor removal.
InÂ photodynamic therapy, a particle is placed within the body and is illuminated with light from the outside. The light gets absorbed by the particle and if the particle is metal, energy from the light will heat the particle and surrounding tissue. Light may also be used to produce high energy oxygen molecules which will chemically react with and destroy most organic molecules that are next to them (like tumors). This therapy is appealing for many reasons. It does not leave a "toxic trail" of reactive molecules throughout the body (chemotherapy) because it is directed where only the light is shined and the particles exist. Photodynamic therapy has potential for a non-invasive procedure for dealing with diseases, growth and tumors.
At Rice University, a flesh welder is used to fuse two pieces of chicken meat into a single piece. The two pieces of chicken are placed together touching. A greenish liquid containing gold-coatedÂ nanoshellsÂ is dribbled along the seam. An infrared laser is traced along the seam, causing the two sides to weld together. This could solve the difficulties and blood leaks caused when the surgeon tries to rest itch the arteries that have been cut during a kidney or heart transplant. The flesh welder could weld the artery perfectly.
Tracking movement can help determine how well drugs are being distributed or how substances are metabolized. It is difficult to track a small group of cells throughout the body, so scientists used to dye the cells. These dyes needed to be excited by light of a certain wavelength in order for them to light up. While different color dyes absorb different frequencies of light, there was a need for as many light sources as cells. A way around this problem is with luminescent tags. These tags areÂ quantum dotsÂ attached to proteins that penetrate cell membranes. The dots can be random in size, can be made of bio-inert material, and they demonstrate the nanoscale property that color is size-dependent. As a result, sizes are selected so that the frequency of light used to make a group of quantum dots fluoresce is an even multiple of the frequency required to make another group incandesce. Then both groups can be lit with a single light source.
It is greatly observed thatÂ nanoparticles are promising tools for the advancement ofÂ drug delivery,Â medical imaging, and asÂ diagnostic sensors. However, the bio distribution of these nanoparticles is mostly unknown due to the difficulty in targeting specific organs in the body. Current research in the excretory systems of mice, however, shows the ability of gold composites to selectively target certain organs based on their size and charge. These composites are encapsulated by a dendrimer and assigned a specific charge and size. Positively-charged gold nanoparticles were found to enter the kidneys while negatively-charged gold nanoparticles remained in the liver and spleen. It is suggested that the positive surface charge of the nanoparticle decreases the rate of osponization of nanoparticles in the liver, thus affecting the excretory pathway. Even at a relatively small size of 5Â nm, though, these particles can become compartmentalized in the peripheral tissues, and will therefore accumulate in the body over time. While advancement of research proves that targeting and distribution can be augmented by nanoparticles, the dangers of Nan toxicity become an important next step in further understanding of their medical uses.
3. Neuro-electronic interfaces
Neuro-electronic interfacing is a visionary goal dealing with the construction of nanodevices that will permit computers to be joined and linked to the nervous system. This idea requires the building of a molecular structure that will permit control and detection of nerve impulses by an external computer. The computers will be able to interpret, register, and respond to signals the body gives off when it feels sensations. The demand for such structures is huge because many diseases involve the decay of the nervous system (ALS and multiple sclerosis). Also, many injuries and accidents may impair the nervous system resulting in dysfunctional systems and paraplegia. If computers could control the nervous system through neuro-electronic interface, problems that impair the system could be controlled so that effects of diseases and injuries could be overcome. Two considerations must be made when selecting the power source for such applications. They are refuelable and nonrefuelable strategies. A refuelable strategy implies energy is refilled continuously or periodically with external sonic, chemical, tethered, magnetic, or electrical sources. A nonrefuelable strategy implies that all power is drawn from internal energy storage which would stop when all energy is drained.
One limitation to this innovation is the fact that electrical interference is a possibility. Electric fields,Â electromagnetic pulses (EMP), and stray fields from otherÂ in vivoÂ electrical devices can all cause interference. Also, thick insulators are required to prevent electron leakage, and if high conductivity of theÂ in vivoÂ medium occurs there is a risk of sudden power loss and "shorting out." Finally, thick wires are also needed to conduct substantial power levels without overheating. Little practical progress has been made even though research is happening. The wiring of the structure is extremely difficult because they must be positioned precisely in the nervous system so that it is able to monitor and respond to nervous signals. The structures that will provide the interface must also be compatible with the body's immune system so that they will remain unaffected in the body for a long time.Â In addition, the structures must also sense ionic currents and be able to cause currents to flow backward. While the potential for these structures is amazing, there is no timetable for when they will be available.
4. Medical applications of molecular nanotechnology
Molecular nanotechnologyÂ is aÂ speculativeÂ subfield of nanotechnology regarding the possibility of engineeringÂ molecular assembler's machines which could re-order matter at a molecular or atomic scale. Molecular nanotechnology is highly theoretical, seeking to anticipate what inventions nanotechnology might yield and to propose an agenda for future inquiry. The proposed elements of molecular nanotechnology, such as molecular assemblers andÂ nanorobots are far beyond current capabilities.
The somewhat speculative claims about the possibility of usingÂ nanorobotsÂ in medicine, advocates say, would totally change the world of medicineÂ once it is realized. Nanomedicine would make use of these nanorobots (e.g.,Â Computational Genes, introduced into the body, to repair or detect damages and infections. According toÂ Robert Freitas of the Institute for Molecular Manufacturing, a typicalÂ blood borne medical nanorobot would be between 0.5-3 micrometres in size, because that is the maximum size possible due toÂ capillary passage requirement.Â CarbonÂ could be the primary element used to build these nanorobots due to the inherent strength and other characteristics of some forms of carbon (diamond / fullerenecomposites), and nanorobots would be fabricated in desktop nanofactoriesÂ specialized for this purpose.
Nanodevices could be observed at work inside the body using MRI, especially if their components were manufactured using mostlyÂ 13C atoms rather than the naturalÂ 12C isotope of carbon, sinceÂ 13C has a nonzero nuclear magnetic moment. Medical nanodevices would first be injected into a human body, and would then go to work in a specific organ or tissue mass. The doctor will monitor the progress, and make certain that the nanodevices have gotten to the correct target treatment region. The doctor will also be able to scan a section of the body, and actually see the nanodevices congregated neatly around their target (a tumor mass, etc.) so that he or she can be sure that the procedure was successful.
4.2 Cell repair machines
Using drugs and surgery, doctors can only encourage tissues to repair themselves. With molecular machines, there will be more direct repairs. Cell repair will utilize the same tasks that living systems already prove possible. Access to cells is possible because biologists can stick needles into cells without killing them. Thus, molecular machines are capable of entering the cell. Also, all specific biochemical interactions show that molecular systems can recognize other molecules by touch, build or rebuild every molecule in a cell, and can disassemble damaged molecules. Finally, cells that replicate prove that molecular systems can assemble every system found in a cell. Therefore, since nature has demonstrated the basic operations needed to perform molecular-level cell repair, in the future, nanomachine based systems will be built that are able to enter cells, sense differences from healthy ones and make modifications to the structure.
The healthcare possibilities of these cell repair machines are impressive. Comparable to the size of viruses or bacteria, their compact parts would allow them to be more complex. The early machines will be specialized. As they open and close cell membranes or travel through tissue and enter cells and viruses, machines will only be able to correct a single molecular disorder like DNA damage or enzyme deficiency. Later, cell repair machines will be programmed with more abilities with the help of advanced AI systems.
Nanocomputers will be needed to guide these machines. These computers will direct machines to examine, take apart, and rebuild damaged molecular structures. Repair machines will be able to repair whole cells by working structure by structure. Then by working cell by cell and tissue by tissue, whole organs can be repaired. Finally, by working organ by organ, health is restored to the body. Cells damaged to the point of inactivity can be repaired because of the ability of molecular machines to build cells from scratch. Therefore, cell repair machines will free medicine from reliance on self repair alone.
Nanonephrology Â is a branch of nanomedicine and nanotechnology that deals with 1) the study of kidney protein structures at the atomic level; 2) nano-imaging approaches to study cellular processes in kidney cells; and 3) nano medical treatments that utilize nanoparticles and to treat various kidney diseases. The creation and use of materials and devices at the molecular and atomic levels that can be used for the diagnosis and therapy of renal diseases is also a part of Nanonephrology that will play a role in the management of patients with kidney disease in the future. Advances in Nanonephrology will be based on discoveries in the above areas that can provide nano-scale information on the cellular molecular machinery involved in normal kidney processes and in pathological states. By understanding the physical and chemical properties of proteins and other macromolecules at the atomic level in various cells in the kidney, novel therapeutic approaches can be designed to combat major renal diseases. The nano-scale artificial kidney is a goal that many physicians dream of. Nano-scale engineering advances will permit programmable and controllable nano-scale robots to execute curative and reconstructive procedures in the human kidney at the cellular and molecular levels. Designing nanostructures compatible with the kidney cells and that can safely operate in vivo is also a future goal. The ability to direct events in a controlled fashion at the cellular nano-level has the potential of significantly improving the lives of patients with kidney diseases.
Health implecations of nano technology
The extremely small size of nanomaterials also means that they are much more readily taken up by the human body than larger sized particles. How these nanoparticles behave inside the body is one of the issues that need to be resolved. The behaviour of nanoparticles is a function of their size, shape and surface reactivity with the surrounding tissue. They could cause overload onÂ phagocytes, cells that ingest and destroy foreign matter, thereby triggering stress reactions that lead to inflammation and weaken the body's defence against other pathogens. Apart from what happens if non-degradable or slowly degradable nanoparticles accumulate in organs, another concern is their potential interaction with biological processes inside the body: because of their large surface, nanoparticles on exposure to tissue and fluids will immediatelyÂ adsorbÂ onto their surface some of the macromolecules they encounter. This may, for instance, affect the regulatory mechanisms of enzymes and other proteins.
Other properties of nanomaterials that influence toxicity include: chemical composition, shape, surface structure, surface charge, aggregation and solubility,Â and the presence or absence ofÂ functional groups of other chemicals.Â The large number of variables influencing toxicity means that it is difficult to generalise about health risks associated with exposure to nanomaterials - each new nonmaterial must be assessed individually and all material properties must be taken into account