What is Nanotechnology?
It is the use of technology on the smallest of levels.
How big is a Nanoparticle?
It is not visible to the naked eye. A nano-meter is a millionth of a millimeter. The atom, the building block of every thing in nature, is only ten times smaller. So by now you can imagine the world of nanotechnology.
How many years has Nanotechnology been studied?
Nanotechnology is not new, however it's study and use has dramatically increased within the last twenty years. And, with the increased innovation and production of digital devices and such, integrating these devices with this type of technology is creating an entire exciting new field of endeavor for the medical community.
*Editor's Note: (from this point on I will hyphenate most of the words for clarity)
Development of Nanotechnology – Past and Future
2000 – Passive Nano-structures
colloid (liquid), coatings, nano-particles
2005 – Active Nano-structures
bio-active, health effects, targeted drugs, bio-devices
2010 – Systems of Nano-systems
guided assembly, networking, new nano-technology architecture
2015-2020 – Molecular Nano-systems
molecular developments by design, atomic design, emerging fusions
Nano-systems = man's ability to create, manufacture and control structures
Nano-medicine = the medical application of nanotechnology
Nano-shells = personalized medicine as cancer therapy
According to the Nanotechnology Project Organization, in the coming years developments will have a variety of uses and could potentially save a great number of lives.
This technology sounds promising, especially because of targeted therapies which could potentially save many cancer patients from experiencing the normal debilitating side-effects from necessary invasive surgery and treatments. At the moment, on the nano-scale, nano-devices are being engineered to be able to enter the body and accomplish things that we have in the past only dreamed of. Right now there are 250 drugs that are being used in this field to treat patients, including cancer patients. The Nano Frontier on the horizon includes the use of rare earth elements. For example, silver is being used to destroy bacteria.
Science Fiction is Here
This tiny technology is being developed for use in cell repair, cancer treatment, implanting devices, virtual reality (doctors can go in and “see” inside the body), gene therapy, drug delivery, nano-tweezers, stem cell treatment, bone repair, imaging, surgery, sensory feedback, medication monitoring, medical records, disease monitoring for prevention, prenatal monitoring, and general research. Imagine a chip with a sensor attached that is microscopic (invisible to the naked eye), that will pave the way for implantable bio-sensors that can evaluate disease indicators or symptoms and regulate drug release to help in disease treatment. In other words, drugs and devices can be reduced down to microscopic size, called quantum-dots so that it can be injected into the human body for treatment. In some cases, it will literally manipulate living tissue at the cellular level to heal itself, if things go like they are supposed to. It is like a sci-fi movie, or like the movie Honey, Who Shrunk The Kids?!
Other Innovative Applications
Nanotechnology is already the foundation for use in many areas of our lives. Other innovative applications besides medicine and drugs are energy, nano-biotech, nano-devices, optical engineering, defense and security, bio-engineering, cosmetics, and nano-fabrics. This brings me to the Con part of the Pro and Con argument. Most of these “outward” technologies (not related to the body) are associated with nano-particles made from synthetic materials, and non-living man-made products can withstand this.
Can We Outsmart Ourselves?
Inasmuch as I would love to see a technology that could save cancer patients from the slash, burn and poison treatments, I think the jury is still out on the way the human body will ultimately react. In fact, according to an organization in Europe, they say that the toxicity of this technology will more than likely be the “restricting factor” impact on the environment and human. I'm not sure what they mean by this, but I do know what the word toxic means. The human body always knows when it is being “invaded” - even by something microscopic. We are living in exciting days and only in time will the rest of this story be told.
Sources: MayoClinic, GenesisNanotech, and Nanotechnology Project Organization.