Nanomedicine is the application of nanotechnology (the engineering of tiny machines) to the prevention and treatment of disease in the human body. This evolving discipline has the potential to dramatically change medical science.
Established and near-future nanomedicine applications include activity monitors, chemotherapy, pacemakers, biochip s, OTC tests, insulin pumps, nebulizers, needleless injectors, hearing aids, medical flow sensors and blood pressure, glucose monitoring and drug delivery systems.
Here are a few examples of how nanomedicine could transform common medical procedures:
- Diagnostic nanomachines could be employed to monitor the internal chemistry of the body. Mobile nanorobots, equipped with wireless transmitters, could circulate in the blood and lymph systems, and send out warnings when chemical imbalances occur or worsen.
- Similar fixed nanomachines could be planted in the nervous system to monitor pulse, brain-wave activity, and other functions.
- Implanted nanotechnology devices could dispense drugs or hormones as needed in people with chronic imbalance or deficiency states.
- In heart defibrillators and pacemakers, nanomachines could affect the behavior of individual cells.
- Artificial antibodies, artificial white and red blood cells, and antiviral nanorobots might be devised.
The most advanced nanomedicine involves the use of nanorobot s as miniature surgeons. Such machines might repair damaged cells, or get inside cells and replace or assist damaged intracellular structures. At the extreme, nanomachines might replicate themselves, or correct genetic deficiencies by altering or replacing DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) molecules.
In a 2006 publication on the worldwide status of nanomedicine, MedMarket Diligence reported that about 150 of the largest companies in the world are conducting nanotechnology research projects or planning nanotechnology products. According to Patrick Driscoll, President of MMD, there is a $1 billion market for nanotechnology applications, mostly in the area of MEMS (microelectromechanical systems), a figure that is likely to increase a hundred-fold by 2015.