Nanotechnology concerns the manipulation of materials so small that they are on the molecular or even subatomic level. The new technology, according to SciDev.Net, has enormous implications for the practice of medicine.
For example, people who are given drugs to combat cancer do not experience the entire dose at the site of the tumor. This fact is one reason why chemotherapy can be such a stress for the human body, as healthy cells are destroyed along with the tumor.
However, drugs can be carried to the site of a tumor using nanoparticles as carriers, attacking only the cancer cells and leaving the rest of the body alone. Nanotechnology means that people suffering from cancer can see higher remission rates with far less stress on the rest of their bodies. The FDA has approved the first generation of cancer drugs that use nanotechnology.
Nanotechnology has also been used to ensure early detection of diseases such as HIV and cancer. Something called quantum dots has been used successfully to detect a variety of diseases, including tuberculosis and malaria.
Even vaccine development, a matter of great concern in the era of the Covid-19 pandemic, is benefiting from nanotechnology. Aerosol and patch-delivered vaccines are being tested using nanoparticles as a delivery system. Even more conventional injectable vaccines have proven more potent when the inactive virus is delivered by a nanoparticle.
How can this new form of nanotechnology-based medicine be made more widely available, especially in the developing world, where diseases that are rare in the developed world are still common?
In any event, nanotechnology is enabling a new science of precision medicine, in which diseases are diagnosed more quickly and are then dealt with, resulting in more beneficial outcomes, increased lifespans, and quality of life. With proper investments, nanotechnology can decrease the cost of healthcare in the long term by making sick people well more quickly and with greater frequency.
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