Following is an in-depth exploration of Nanotechnology.
Nano just means very small. Technically a branch of physics, nanotechnology is the science of manipulating atoms and molecules, primarily to build submicroscopic devices.
A centimeter is one hundredth of a meter (about 4/10 of an inch). One nanometer is a billionth of a meter. A sheet of paper is about 100,000 nanometers thick. A red blood cell is about 10,000 nanometers across (so itâ€™s ten times thinner than the paper sheet). There are 25,400,000 nanometers in one inch.
Professor Lloyd Hollenberg from the University of Melbourne's School of Physics who led the research said it is the first time a single atom encased in nanodiamond has been used as a sensor to explore the nanoscale environment inside a living human cell.
"It is exciting to see how the atom experiences the biological environment at the nanoscale," he said.
"This research paves the way towards a new class of quantum sensors used for biological research into the development of new drugs and nanomedicine."
The sensor is capable of detecting biological processes at a molecular level, such as the regulation of chemicals in and out of the cell, which is critical in understanding how drugs work.
[Ray Kurzweil, once again]â€¦..One point we haven't covered is the reliable exponential trajectory of information technology. It's growing exponentially in price performance capacity, and it's shrinking exponentially in size.
This computer is thousands of times more powerful than the computer I used as a student, and it's 100,000 times smaller. In 25 years, it will be a billion times more powerful in price performance, a billion times more powerful per dollar, and 100,000 times smaller.
It'll be the size of a blood cell. They'll be going through our body and keeping us healthy from the inside. Not as futuristic as it sounds. People have already been doing that in animal models. There are people walking around with computers attached to their brains, like Parkinson's patients, the latest generation of which allows you to download new software to the computer that's connected into your brain from outside the patient. Right now that requires surgery because it's pea-sized. But it will be blood-cell-size in 25 years, and we will be able to introduce it noninvasively.
From a similar interview with Mr. Kurzweil in The New York Times:
Nanotechnology has the real potential to revolutionize a wide array of medical and biotechnology tools and procedures so that they are more personalized, portable, cheaper, safer, and easier to administer. Below are some examples of important advances in these areas.
Quantum dots are semiconducting nanocrystals that can enhance biological imaging for medical diagnosticsâ€¦â€¦
Nanotechnology has been used in the early diagnosis of atherosclerosis, or the buildup of plaque in arteriesâ€¦â€¦
Gold nanoparticles can be used to detect early-stage Alzheimerâ€™s disease.
Molecular imaging for the early detection where sensitive biosensors constructed of nanoscale components (e.g., nanocantilevers, nanowires, and nanochannels) can recognize genetic and molecular events and have reporting capabilities, thereby offering the potential to detect rare molecular signals associated with malignancy.
Multifunctional therapeutics where a nanoparticle serves as a platform to facilitate its specific targeting to cancer cells and delivery of a potent treatment, minimizing the risk to normal tissues.
Research enablers such as microfluidic chip-based nanolabs capable of monitoring and manipulating individual cells and nanoscale probes to track the movements of cells and individual molecules as they move about in their environments.
Research is underway to use nanotechnology to spur the growth of nerve cells, e.g., in damaged spinal cord or brain cells.
â€¦..These days, the use of nanosize materials, comparable in dimension to some proteins, DNA, RNA, and oligosaccharides, is making waves in diverse biomedical fields, including biosensing, imaging, drug delivery, and even surgeryâ€¦â€¦
Most nanomaterials can also penetrate living cells, providing the basis for nanocarrier delivery of biosensors or therapeuticsâ€¦..
Nearly 50 biomedical products incorporating nanoparticles are already on the market, and many more are moving through the pipeline, with dozens in Phase 2 or Phase 3 clinical trialsâ€¦â€¦
The prototype of targeted drug delivery can be traced back to the concept of a â€œmagic bullet,â€� proposed by chemotherapy pioneer and 1908 Nobel laureate Paul Ehrlich. Ehrlich envisioned a drug that could selectively target a disease-causing organism or diseased cells, leaving healthy tissue unharmed. A century later, researchers are developing many types of nanoscale â€œmagic bulletsâ€� that can specifically deliver drugs into target cells or tissuesâ€¦â€¦
Scientists are also engineering â€œsmartâ€� nanoparticles, which activate only in the disease microenvironmentâ€¦â€¦
With these and other nanoplatforms for targeted drug delivery being tested in animal models, medicine is now approaching the prototypic magic bullet, sparing healthy tissue while exterminating disease.
In addition to serving as mere drug carriers that deliver the toxic payload to target cells, nanomaterials can themselves function as therapeutics. For example, thermal energy is emerging as an important means of therapy, and many gold nanomaterials can convert photons into thermal energy for targeted photothermal therapyâ€¦..
Many other subfields have been advanced by recent developments in nanomedicine, including tissue engineering and regenerative medicine, medical devices, and vaccines. We must proceed with caution until these different technologies prove safe in patients, but nanomedicine is now poised to make a tremendous impact on health care and the practice of clinical medicine.
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