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Coming Soon to a Clinic Near You: Nanotechnology in Medicine
by Casey K CHAN

he innumerable connections and intersections of nanotechnology and other disciplines present considerable potential for application in diverse fields.

Owing to the nascent stage of development of nanotechnology and the discordant development in the associated disciplines, many of these applications are in the exploratory stage, years away from practical use. It appears, however, that microelectronics and biotechnology represent two areas in which research results from nanotechnology can be immediately relevant.

Nanotechnology applied to therapeutic medicine remains distant. Some people even argue that the idea of nanorobots coursing through the bloodstream to repair damage resulting from blood clots and cancer belongs in the realm of science fiction and will remain so. In reality, nanobiotechnology, the convergence of nanotechnology and biotechnology, has already given rise to real practical application in the form of research and diagnostic tools. Companies in the United States such as Quantum Dot Corp, Nanosphere Inc and Molecular Nanosystems Inc are shipping or are close to shipping real products for research and diagnostic use.

Nanobiotechnology offers the potential of obtaining the most information from the smallest number of test samples in the shortest time at the lowest possible cost. Nanomaterials are so small that when they interact with biomolecules they generate detectable signals in the form of light emissions, a deflection of a nanoscale cantilever beam or magnetic field.

Currently over 200 molecular diagnostic tests for biomolecules have become associated with various disease states. Detection of these biomarkers offers the potential for therapeutic decision, monitoring the progression of disease, early diagnosis, risk assessment of predispositions to certain diseases and consequent preventive care.

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