'Almost invisible' tools are being developed by European researchers to discover diseases earlier and to treat patients better. At the same time the miniaturisation of instruments to micro- and nano-dimensions promises to make our future lives safer and cleaner. In Barcelona, Spain, a leading European research group (Centro Nacional de Microelectronica in Bellaterra) is developing a low-cost molecular detection tool: the "Biofinger". The tiny chips can detect a huge variety of substances, from cancer cells to chemical ingredients. The revolutionary idea is to use physical forces in nano-dimensions in order to search for molecules. A team of European researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Biomedical Technologies institute near Saarbruecken is using nanotechnology to improve diagnostic capabilities. In the "Adonis"-project, nano-sized gold particles are used to detect prostate cancer cells at an early stage.
Professor Robert Langer and colleagues at the Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies are working on a unique design of a 'smart surface' that can reversibly switch properties in response to an external stimulus. The new switchable surface essentially consists of a forest of molecules only a nanometer tall, engineered to stand at a precise distance from each other. When a positive electrical potential is applied, the top bends down to reveal another surface. Reverse the electrical potential, and the molecules straighten to their full height. The work paves the way for systems that could, for example, release or absorb cells and chemicals from surfaces on demand. Future work will include developing surfaces that have different switchable properties as well as tailoring the proof-of-concept system for different applications.
Approximately 99 per cent of medicinal molecules don't reach their targets and subsequently, stay in the body of the patient. As these molecules can sometimes be very toxic - particularly in the case of those designed to target cancers - research is being undertaken into more effective ways of safely transporting and delivering drugs.
Source: Association for Research in Vision & Ophthalmology
A series of nine videos on nanomedicine originally presented as an ARVO Education Course at the ARVO Annual Meeting on April 30, 2005 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The videos deal with such topics as "Nanoscale Materials Behavior - Why all the Fuss?", "Nanoparticles - Chemistry, Structure and Function", "What Can Nanotechnology Do for Biology?", "Nanotechnology and Regenerative Medicine", or "The NIH Nanomedicine Vision".
In the fight against cancer, nanotechnology introduces unique approaches to diagnosis and treatment that could not even be imagined with conventional technology. This is a general overview of nanotechnology's potential in fighting cancer.