Nanotechnology and the future of medicine

Nanotechnology is the manipulation of matter at the atomic and molecular scale. It creates materials with extraordinarily varied and new properties. This area of research is expanding and offers enormous potential in many sectors, from healthcare to construction and electronics. In medicine, it promises to revolutionize drug delivery, gene therapy, diagnostics, and many areas of research, development and clinical application. 

Earlier this year, researchers from Northwestern University successfully recreated a molecular pump. This method moves ions across the cell membranes, which are used in nature in a number of different ways.

 The synthetic pump uses a dumbbell-shaped molecule, and a set of molecular rings that are positively charged. The rings have opposite charges, so they repel each other. This solves one of the biggest obstacles scientists have faced with nanotechnology: finding a way to power these microscopic creations.  This could be the breakthrough that scientists have needed.

 In 2004, scientists at New York University created a "nanobot" that walks on 10 nanometer-long legs. Imagine a nanobot "walking" along a strand of DNA, fixing potential genetic disorders or mutations. This would eliminate the need for invasive surgery.

 Researchers imagine this as the beginnings of a nanobot conveyor belt for nano-assembly. This sounds like science fiction. However, a study on the future of nano-materials predicts that we are only 10 to 20 years away from being able to create a nano-sized factory that would be capable of doing this.

The first version of one of these nanotechnologies has been realized in vivo (in a living body). Researchers at the University of California San Diego have delivered microscopic treatment projectiles to the stomach of mice. They explore the concept as a treatment for conditions such as stomach ulcers, gastritis, or other diseases of the organ.

 The potential for nanotechnology is unprecedented. Two of the biggest draws to this technology are minimizing impact to surrounding tissues and eliminating the need for incision. 

Prepared by: JZEnglish

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