Mining the Medical Possibilities of Nanotechnology

The potential applications for nanotechnology in medicine are many, but some of these applications need a bit longer development time than you'd find in some other industries. That's due in part to the complex interactions among all those tiny components, as well as tight regulations for new products. In the future, medical tools will be made more inexpensively, diagnosis will become more accurate, and we can expect tiny, inexpensive sensors and implants to provide both automated monitoring and semiautomatic treatment. Medical imaging and in-vivo drug delivery are also being explored.

Nanospectra Biosciences (www.nanospectra.com) is one company pushing the envelope in nano-medical applications today. They have patented nanoshell particles used in noninvasive medical therapies. These nanoparti-cles can actually be tuned to scatter or absorb light in specific wavelengths. This makes possible tasks such as destroying specific cancer cells with an infrared laser, welding tissues to heal wounds, and something called photocoagulation (coagulation with a laser) that cuts off the blood supply to unhealthy cells, slowing down degeneration in people with diseases such as diabetes and cancer.

Hitachi (www.hitachi.com) established Hitachi High-Technologies in 2001 to pursue nanotechnology in a variety of settings, including medical testing in conjunction with Hitachi Medical Corporation and Hitachi Instruments Group. Hitachi is exploring DNA analysis through the use of atomic and molecular devices. Hitachi also recently partnered with Oxford and Cambridge in a joint venture called Nanotech.org. They manufactured the world's tiniest test tube (you could fit about 300 million of them into a grain of sand). What xjweh xjweh people will do with these test "tubettes" is limited only by the human imagination. (For now you'll just have to imagine what they look like.)

Dow Chemical (www.dow.com), through its division DowPharma, is actively involved in drug solubilization technology, working on altering nanoparticle size and properties to make drugs easier for the body to absorb. It's a key aspect of effectively delivering small-molecule drugs to where they can do the most good.

Other companies dealing with medicine, medical testing, and drug-related nanotechnology are

1 Merck (www.merck.com) 1 Abbot Laboratories (http://abbott.com) 1 Beckman (www.beckman.com) 1 Nanoprobes(www.nanoprobes.com)

1 American Pharmaceutical Partners, Inc. (www.appdrugs.com)

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