Introduction to Nanotechnology Applications in Health Care
written by: Rafael
• edited by: Anurag Ghosh
• updated: 11/9/2009
Nanotechnology has the potential to completely change healthcare for the next generation. As a matter of fact, nanotechnology may be an ongoing revolution in health care.
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Nanotechnology refers to the a new area of science in which systems are designed and manufactured at the scale of the atom, or the nanometer scale. More specifically nanotechnology deals with structures of less than 100 nanometer (nm). One nm is 1 billionth of a meter.
Nanotechnology involves the precise manipulation and control of atoms and molecules, the building blocks of all materials. Broadly speaking , there are two approaches in nanotechnology: bottom-up and top-down. The first approach, the bottom-up, involves manipulating small numbers individual atoms or more complex molecules, into structures typically using minute probes. The second, top-down, approach implies controlling processes to force atoms and molecules to build-up themselves to desired locations and/or structures.
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Applications of Nanotechnology in Healthcare
There are three key areas in which nanotechnology could revolutionize healthcare: Diagnosis, Prevention and Treatment. Nobody knows when we will take a full advantage of nanotechnology for healthcare applications but more and more research is currently underway. Many innovations are starting to pop up and many more will surface in the near future. Most probably, nanotechnology will help medical professionals in today’s most excruciating medical issues such as reparation of damaged organs, diagnosis and treatment of cancer cells, removal of obstructions in the brain, creation of artificial materials that will help in diagnosis or delivery of new and better drugs, creation of artificial tissues, etc.
Nanotechnology as any new technology, is not free of controversy and concerns. Some environmental groups believe that caution should be exercised with nanotechnology. Since nanotechnology is really working at the cellular lever (even at the atomic level) some people believe that the interaction between nanoparticles and living organisms should be fully evaluated. Nanomaterials are so small that some medical professionals are cautioning that they may affect people who they are not intended to because they can be easily inhaled or absorbed through the skin. Also, the possibility of unethical uses are raised by detractors or “concerned" people.
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Other Advantages and Disadvantages of Future Nanotechnologies
A new bright new future is on the horizon. One of harnessing the good aspects of nanotechnology for healthcare. Eventually a new way of providing healthcare could be devised and developed. Potential sources of medical issues could be prevented, monitored and cured using new technology and materials derived of this new area of science called nanotechnology. As with any new technology concerns and risks should be properly evaluated and monitored. By controlling any possible risk this new technology (nanotechnology) will be very useful in many areas of our life and especially in healthcare.