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The term "Nanomedicine" is commonly used to describe the convergence of nanotechnology and pharmacology. It has been defined as "the science and technology of diagnosing, treating, and preventing disease and traumatic injury, or relieving pain, and of preserving and improving human health, using molecular tools and molecular knowledge of the human body" by the European Science Foundation. (European Science Foundation)
Nanomedicine will soon be used for diagnosing and treating cancer, musculoskeletal and inflammatory diseases, neurodegenerative diseases, diabetes and infectious diseases. In general, nanotechnology has the incredible potential to improve patient outcomes. What does this mean? Patients will be living longer with a greater quality of life!
In the fight against cancer, nanotechnology introduces unique approaches to diagnosis and treatment that could not even be imagined with conventional technology. New tools engineered at sizes much smaller than a human cell will enable researchers and clinicians to detect cancer earlier, treat it with much greater precision and fewer side effects, and possibly stop the disease long before it can do any damage.
Nanotechnology is the development and engineering of devices so small that they are measured on a molecular scale. This emerging field involves scientists from many different disciplines, including physicists, chemists, engineers, information technologists, and material scientists, as well as biologists. Nanotechnology is being applied to almost every field imaginable, including electronics, magnetics, optics, information technology, materials development and biomedicine.
The Size of Things
Nanoscale devices are one hundred to ten thousand times smaller than human cells. They are similar in size to large biological molecules ("biomolecules") such as enzymes and receptors. As an example, hemoglobin, the molecule that carries oxygen in red blood cells, is approximately 5 nanometers in diameter. Nanoscale devices smaller than 50 nanometers can easily enter most cells, while those smaller than 20 nanometers can move out of blood vessels as they circulate through the body.
Because of their small size, nanoscale devices can readily interact with biomolecules on both the surface and inside cells. By gaining access to so many areas of the body, they have the potential to detect disease and deliver treatment in ways unimagined before now.