Nanomedicine, the idea of using “nanotechnology” in medicine, might sound like something out of a science fiction novel or movie, however the reality is that nanoparticles (nanomaterials smaller then several nanometers) are already being used in a variety of medical and other applications.
Many people still tend to think of nanotechnology as being about tiny machines or robots which can be injected into a patient to “fix” a problem, whereas in reality much of the field deals with creating “nano sized” version of materials or structures which often exhibit different and useful properties when produced at such a tiny size.
The science of nanotechnology is expanding quickly and has the potential to transform how we approach healthcare. It entails the reshaping of matter at the nanoscale, or on the order of a billionth of a meter, in order to produce new substances, machines, and structures. With this technology, new medical cures and treatments that target illnesses at the cellular level can be created. This strategy, known as nanomedicine, has the potential to enhance patients’ health and wellbeing and treat ailments.
Nanomedicine involves new areas of medical and biotechnology research focusing on properties of matter at the atomic and molecular levels.
The use of nanoparticles in medicine is one of the most exciting aspects of nanotechnology. These minuscule particles, which are typically between 1 and 100 nanometers in size, can be made to target particular bodily cells or tissues. For instance, proteins or antibodies that bind to cancer cells can be coated on nanoparticles to deliver medications directly to the tumor while limiting harm to healthy tissue. Moreover, they can be utilized to deliver therapeutic genes or proteins to certain cells, allowing for the treatment of hereditary diseases or the promotion of tissue regeneration.
Nanoparticles can potentially be employed to increase the potency of currently available medications. Drugs can be made more stable and soluble by being enclosed within nanoparticles, which improves their capacity to be delivered to their target cells. Better medicines for illnesses including cancer, HIV, and Alzheimer’s have already been created using this method.
Nanoscience might also be a source of the needed breakthrough in the fight against atherosclerosis, since nanostructures may be used in both preventing and increasing the stability of atherosclerotic lesions.
One area of interest is creating nanomaterials that are not only efficient, but also well tolerated by the human body.
Nanoparticles can be employed for diagnostic purposes in addition to their potential for therapeutic usage. The ability to see nanoparticles inside the body can be achieved, for instance, by coating them with fluorescent dyes or other imaging agents. The non-invasive alternative to conventional imaging techniques can be used to detect cancers or other abnormal tissues using this method.
Other potential applications of nanotechnology in medicine include: nanoadjuvants with immunomodulatory properties used to deliver vaccine antigens; the nano-knife, an almost non-invasive method of destroying cancer cells with high voltage electricity; and carbon nanotubes, which are already a popular way of repairing damaged tissues and might be used to regenerate nerves in the future.
Although the potential of nanomedicine is intriguing, there are still numerous obstacles that must be overcome before these treatments can be made widely available. Assuring the safety of nanoparticles in the body is one of the toughest challenges. Nanoparticles can easily enter cells and tissues where they may cause harm because of their small size. The development of biocompatible, safely excretable nanoparticles is a current area of research.
Another challenge is the development of scalable manufacturing processes for nanoparticles. While researchers have demonstrated the ability to create nanoparticles with precise sizes and shapes, producing these particles on a large scale for clinical use remains a significant challenge. Indeed our manufacturing partner Aegle Technology SL is working closely with leading experts in nanoparticle engineering to help address this challenge.
Nanomedicine today: Vaccination against COVID-19
One of the most publicised and recent applications of nanomedicine has been the development of vaccines based on messenger RNA technology [such as those developed against Covid-19]. Ribonucleic acid or RNA is embedded in nanoparticles that act as carriers named “vectors”. These vectors protect the molecule and transport it to where it is needed. Being chemically engineered, these nanoparticles are more likely to be accepted by cells.
Treatments for cancer
Nanomaterials show very high efficiency in destroying cancer cells and are already undergoing clinical trials.
The results are so promising that nanomaterials might become an alternative to traditional cancer therapy, mostly due to the fact that they allow cancer cells to be targeted specifically and enable detailed imaging of tissues, making planning further therapy much easier.
In the following article, Duxin Sun (Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Michigan) describes how researchers are experimenting with new ways to design tiny particle treatments for cancer.
At Aegle Biomedical we are working with our partners at Vall d’Hebron Research Institute (VHIR) and Catalan Institute of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (ICN2) to develop and commercialise new medical treatments based on advanced materials engineering, including a promising new treatment against cancer.
Reducing Oxidative Stress
Oxidative stress occurs anytime there exists an imbalance between antioxidants and free radicals within our body, resulting in an abundance of unchecked reactive free radical species (ROS), which can cause irreversible damage to DNA as they oxidize and modify some cellular components and prevent them from performing their original functions. .
Recent research shows that treatment with nano-sized versions of cerium oxide (“nanoceria”) not only protect from oxidative stress consequence of inflammation but also modulate the immune response towards inflammation resolution.
We can rebuild him/her
In the 1970s TV series “The Six million dollar man” medical scientists used technology to heal and “rebuild” the astronaut Steve Austin, not only saving his life but giving him “superhuman” abilities.
Many science fiction books, films and comics have theorised about the potential of technology to repair, rebuild and even improve on our biology.
Nanomedicine – The sky is the limit
Nanotechnology and nanoparticles have enormous potential to improve the health and well-being of patients and cure illnesses. The field of nanomedicine is rapidly evolving, and new breakthroughs are being made every day. While there are still many challenges that need to be addressed, the future of nanomedicine is exciting, and we can expect to see many new and innovative therapies emerge in the coming years.
The potential applications for nano medicine are limitless and in future we may be able to cure diseases and conditions which today are lethal or greatly reduce the quality of life.
- Allen TM, Cullis PR. Liposomal drug delivery systems: from concept to clinical applications. Adv Drug Deliv Rev. 2013;65(1):36-48.
- Blanco E, Shen H, Ferrari M. Principles of nanoparticle design for overcoming biological barriers to drug delivery. Nat Biotechnol. 2015;33(9):941-951.
- Ferrari M. Cancer nanotechnology: opportunities and challenges. Nat Rev Cancer. 2005;5(3):161-171.
- Jain RK, Stylianopoulos T. Delivering nanomedicine to solid tumors. Nat Rev Clin Oncol. 2010;7(11):653-664.
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