Nanotechnology in healthcare

Here are the four major ways in which nanotechnology is changing the future of healthcare:

1. Nanomedicine

Nanomedicine applies nanotechnology in healthcare applications such as treatment and diagnostics of various diseases using nanoparticles in medical devices, as well as nanoelectronic biosensors and molecular nanotechnology. Nanomedicine is currently being used to develop smart pills and for treating cancer.

Smart pills

The term ‘smart pills’ refers to nano-level electronic devices that are shaped and designed like pharmaceutical pills but perform more advanced functions such as sensing, imaging, and drug delivery.

Cancer detection and treatment

A key problem with regular chemotherapy and radiation is the damage caused to the body’s healthy cells during the treatment. New nanomedicine approaches are being used in the treatment of skin cancer, which enables efficient delivery of drugs and other therapeutic treatments to specific tumor sites and target cells with low toxic side-effects.

2. Nanobots

Nanobots are micro-scale robots, which essentially serve as miniature surgeons. They can be inserted into the body to repair and replace intracellular structures. They can also replicate themselves to correct a deficiency in genetics or even eradicate diseases by replacing DNA molecules. This property is still under development.

Nanobots are currently being tested to perform eye surgery, through a microscopic needle inserted into the retina. Surgeons can direct this needle using a specialized magnetic field.

Nanobots can also be used to clear artery blockages by drilling through them. Scientists at Michigan State University and Stanford University have partnered to develop nanobots which contain carbon nanotubes, loaded with a drug that can eat away arterial plaque. This can reduce the risk of heart attacks.

3. Nanofibers

Nanofibers are being used in wound dressings and surgical textiles, as well as in implants, tissue engineering, and artificial organ components.

Scientists are working on developing ‘smart bandages’, which when left on the site, will absorb itself into the tissue once the wound heals. Embedded nanofibres in these smart bandages can contain clotting agents, antibiotics, and even sensors to detect signs of infection.

4. Nanotech-based wearables

The use of cloth-based nanotechnology in healthcare is a new yet popular form of remote patient monitoring. Such wearables have embedded nanosensors in the cloth that record medical data such as heartbeat, sweat components, and blood pressure. It helps save lives by alerting the wearer and medical professionals of any adverse changes faced by the body