Nanoscience is widely accepted as the future of biomedical practices and the research done in the past few years have proven this assumption beyond doubt. While the use of nanotechnology is widespread in many different fields, its use in medicine seems to have generated widespread interest more than its use in other fields. Thus, this article will elaborate on some instances where nanotechnology enhances the practice of medicine based on information extracted from the research studies already undertaken in many different parts of the world.
One of the most notable uses of nanotechnology in medicine is for delivering drugs to various parts of the body. To illustrate, one could imagine that specifically designed nanoparticles as having the ability to detect a specific type of cell within the body, such as a cancer cell, and deliver a drug attached to the nanoparticle directly to the targeted cell. This will avoid the side effects that are associated with cancer medications, as they cannot distinguish between some of the normal cells and the cancer cells when exerting their actions. In some instances, nanotechnology has been used by researchers to deliver injectable vaccines via the oral route using nanoparticles which can protect the attached vaccine from the rigors of the intestine and deliver the same to the blood stream as it gets absorbed through the intestinal mucosa. In addition, nanotechnology has been used to improve the survival of foreign particles within the blood circulation because the technology can cover foreign particle using natural cell membranes, such as the membranes of the red blood cells. This will enable nanoparticles to survive much longer in the circulation, which could also increase its effectiveness as a drug delivering method.
Nanoparticles in the form of ‘buckyballs’ have been used to trap free radicals released during an allergic reaction, which can therefore minimize the intensity of an inflammatory reaction to tolerable levels. At the same time, certain nanoparticles known as ‘nanoshells’ have been used to trap heat from infrared light and subsequently deliver the same to targeted cells such as the cancer cells. Similarly, nanoparticles potentiated by x-rays would be able to release radiation in the form of electrons to designated sites, which can minimize the potential harm caused by radiation therapy to minimum levels. In addition, nanoparticles have also been used to reduce the amount of bleeding, promote growth of cartilages, as well as to fight viral respiratory infections when inhaled through the nostrils.
Imaging and diagnostics
The use of nanoparticles known as ‘quantum dots’ have shown to enhance the ability to detect cancer tumors through imaging studies, although the research pertaining to the same is still limited to animal models. In another instance, nanoparticles made up of iron oxide has been used to enhance the contrast made by certain tumors by allowing the nanoparticles to bind to such tumors before being subjected to a MRI scan. In addition, the ability of nanoparticles to bind to protein molecules in the circulation could enhance detection of certain protein indicators sooner rather than late using a lab sample.
Nanoparticles as antibiotics
As an antimicrobial, certain nanoparticles can act much faster than when using traditional antibiotics and, in some instances, research models have been developed to experiment with certain techniques, which can eliminate infections within minutes rather than having treatment for many weeks. In addition, burn wounds dressed using antibiotic impregnated nanoparticle dressings could release antibiotics at an earlier stage because the dressing detects the presence of bacterial growth at the wound site. At the same time, certain nanoparticle antibiotics have shown to be extra effective against bacteria such a staphylococcus, which can cause abscesses and many other skin infections.
Although the above categories are the main nanotechnological adaptations in medicine, there are many other instances of using nanotechnology to enhance the present medical practice. Thus, it is possible to predict that the future medical treatments would be far better and far different to the medical treatments that are given today and the suffering experienced by the patients will greatly be reduced through the advent of nanotechnological treatment methods.