The Unlimited Potential of Nanomedicine

What can we look forward to in this field?

All of us have heard this before — everything is made up of atoms. The food we eat, the objects we touch, the clothes we wear, our bodies, etc, are all made up of these small particles of matter that has the simple job of taking up space. Normally, we interact with atoms at a larger scale, but when you put things in perspective, one atom usually has the diameter of between 0.1–0.5 nanometers. One sheet of newspaper is about 100,000 nanometers thick, so you can see just how small the atom actually is when comparing it to larger objects this way.

The atom compared to other objects and life, it’s just really small.

What is Nanomedicine?

Nanomedicine is exactly what it sounds like: using nanotechnology for medical purposes, like diagnosis and treating disease. I am so excited about this field because to me, it has unlimited potential. All throughout history, we’ve mostly been tackling disease and infections with macro scaled objects since the causes, such as viruses, were too small to reach directly. With nanomedicine, we can start delivering medication directly into those cells in so many ways. For example, particles are now able to carry drugs around a tumor sight, straight into cells, and across very tight blood brain barriers.

Nanomedicine in the Diagnosis of Disease

Nanoparticles provide a great way of diagnosis simply because they can detect toxins or tumor cells well from direct contact. We are know seeing that we can detect some types of brain cancer by using magnetic nanoparticles. Cancer cells in the brain shed tiny particles called microvesicles that often travel around the blood stream, initially thought to be “cell dust”. By using nanoparticles with magnetic properties, microvesicles can be easily detected since they are normally shed in mass amounts in brain tumor cells.

Process of using nanoparticles for brain cancer detection.

Nanomedicine in the Treatment of Disease

This field makes it much easier to take already existing medication. This is because our metabolism for certain drugs can be much higher than that for other people, meaning drugs don’t stay in our system as long as they should. Using nanoparticles, we can tailor them in a way in which they can release medication at a slower rate, which in turn keeps the drug in your system for as long as it should be. This also eliminates the frequency at which we take medication, making the entire process much more cost efficient and convenient.

Nanomedicine in Tissue Engineering

Nanomedicine also gives us better ways to approach tissue engineering. Nanotechnology can be used to create personalized nanofibers, which can form blood-vessel like structures and mimic the structure of existing tissue. In another study, researchers at John Hopkins University managed to find a way to use nanofibers to develop stem cells into cartilage. This is done by supplying a mix of protein fibers and gel that mimic the cartilage cell environment, which signal surrounding stem cells to differentiate accordingly.

Cartilage in your elbow joints.