Nanotechnology for Cancer Treatment- An Update
Whether it’s the discovery of electricity, genome editing, or the molecular structure of DNA, investigation and developments drive scientific advancements. Constant research and inquiry, results in new discoveries that revolutionize the impact of science on society through various fields, most commonly medicine. Nanotechnology in science is a recent development that has immense scope for redefining diagnosis, genetic therapy, and treatment for numerous diseases.
Nanotechnology, in essence, is the exploration of scientific and medical engineering that can be conducted at the nanoscale, to help manipulate and control individual molecules. One nanometer is one billionth of a meter. To put things into perspective, a single strand of human hair is approximately 50,000 - 100,000 nanometers wide.
Nanotechnology in medicine is a field that is equal parts intriguing and unpredictable. Application of nanotechnology helps with diagnosis, imaging, targeting specific cells, and unobstructed drug transport. Attaching nanoparticles to drugs and liposomes will help the drug travel to a specialised location, affecting only defective cells and safely avoiding healthy ones. Nanoparticles can also be used to control drug release, and time it in correspondance to external or internal stimuli. Additionally, nanotechnology is important in the field of pharmacogenomics, to investigate why people respond differently to the same drug. This means everyone can have access to effective drugs, despite genetic make-up.
Approximately 90% of deaths by cancer occur because of metastatic cancer. Metastatic tumors (cancerous in nature) proliferate uncontrollably, and spread the cancer to different parts of the body. Nanoparticles can be used to synthezise those tumors, effectively restricting them from spreading and reproducing. Nanotechnology also plays a role in identifying these cancerous tumors, and in most cancers, early diagnosis is crucial to survival.
Along with these numerous benefits, come risks and dangers of novel introductions, especially in a field as volatile as medicine. The microscopic nature of nanoparticles arises concerns with the public - just because a particle is small, doesn’t mean it isn’t dangerous. What are the risks of ingesting nanoparticles? Are they all soluble? What if they permeate the cell membrane and impair the functioning of important cells?
Nanotechnology in medicine has the potential to save thousands of lives. It could reshape all we know about identifying and treating cancerous diseases. However, the effective and safe introduction of new technologies and sciences into society are heavily dependent on public opinion and response. The advancement of biomedical engineering in science is contingent on bridging the gap between scientific/medical systems and the public, and instilling trust in man-made structures.