• Question: What impact has nanotechnology had on medicine?

    Asked by rhiannondhoot to Sinead, Eleanor, Chris on 13 Nov 2013.
    • Photo: Eleanor Holmes

      Eleanor Holmes answered on 13 Nov 2013:

      Well I know almost nothing about biology and medicine but I literally just read a scientific paper that was published last month about using Fluorinated Graphene Oxide as a magnetically responsive drug carrier. Which I gather means that we could add it to a drug that will go all through your body in your blood and then we can use machines like MRIs (Magnetic Resonance Imagers) to see what’s wrong inside you. It’s a very important diagnostic step and doctors are always looking for better ways to look inside you without just opening you up!

    • Photo: Sinead Cullen

      Sinead Cullen answered on 16 Nov 2013:

      Hi Rhiann,
      Nanotechnology and medicine are now coming together to be called Nanomedicine and there is huge potential for this field. Where a lot of work is going on right now is in the area on nanoparticles, so really really tiny particles. Especially in the area of cancer treatments. These nanoparticles would deliver chemotherapeutic drugs directly to the cancer cells. One of the main problems today with chemotherapy is the fact it kills of healthy cells as well as cancer cells. So these nanoparticles would only target cancer cells and allowing the healthy cells to live. Some of these nanoparticles are involved in clinical trials already.

      Another idea of Gold nanorods to treat cancer is also being explored. The Gold nanorods are attached to strands of DNA. The DNA strands act as a building site the nanorod and the chemotherapy drug. Then a light at an wavelength that is not possible to see with the naked eye (Infrared light) shines on the the cancer tumor and the gold nanorod takes in the infrared light, turning it into heat. The heat both releases the chemotherapy drug and helps destroy the cancer cells.

      Nanoparticles are also being used a way to try and stop people becoming antibiotic resistant by stopping the proteins that cause antibiotic resistance.

      Scientist want to be able to track the movements of cells within the body, so they started using really really tiny tags that can pass through the cell wall and make the cell shine bright at a certain wavelength of light. The tags are celled quantum dots. Scientists have also found a way to insert nanoparticles into the affected parts of the body so that those parts of the body will glow showing the tumor growth or shrinkage or also organ trouble.

      Nanotechnology is working towards Arthroscopes much smaller. An athroscope is something surgeons use in surgeries that has lights and cameras. If these are made smaller it would take the patients wounds less time to heal.

      One of my favourite impacts that nanomedicine will have on us is the ability for drugs to pass through the blood brain barrier. The blood brain barrier is essential like a fence that protects the brain from things that are in our blood that would cause brain damage if it got to our brains, like certain proteins are too big to get to our brains for good reason. There are certain diseases which can affect the brain and are really hard to treat such as Alzheimer’s Disease. This causes memory loss and it has devastating affects on people with this disease and their family, but with nanotechnology, nanoparticles could be used to deliver the drugs to treat this disease and they would be small enough to pass the blood brain barrier.

      And of course I think my research will have an impact on medicine. We are trying to develop a point of care device, which means we are trying to develop a device that can be used at home, or in your G.P’s office to test your blood and tell you if you could have a blood clot forming in your body or if you are more likely to have a blood clot than another person. We are trying to make these sensors really tiny so the tests will be more sensitive.
      A lot of groups are working on similar projects. This type of work is called Lab-on-a-chip. So basically it will have all the things a whole lab can do on one tiny chip. Amazing!

      Hope this helps 🙂