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The Impact and Art of Nanomedicine

The promise and potential of nanomedicine is evident in recent technological developments, which can revolutionize treatments for diabetes, cancer and heart disease, as well as many others.

Nanomedicine is the catalyst to take medical devices and drug therapies to the next level, increasing efficacy while reducing costs — not to mention improving patient health. As existing and emerging technologies advance, the health care industry comes closer to creating a highly personalized approach to medicine.

The promise and potential of nanomedicine is evident in these recent developments, which can revolutionize treatments for diabetes, cancer and heart disease, as well as many others.

  1. Contact lenses that sense dropping glucose levels

    In 2015, 30.3 million Americans, or 9.4 percent of the population, had diabetes. For people with diabetes, the unrelenting demand for testing and regulating blood sugar often leads to noncompliance and increased risk of serious health complications.

    A few well-known companies are working on a new contact lens that uses processing chips, a glucose sensor and an antenna to detect glucose levels in the wearer’s tears, taking readings once per second, and transmitting the findings to an external device, like a smart phone or a health care provider (HCP).

    This bionic sensor could make a real difference in quality-of-life for diabetics, who monitor their blood sugar levels throughout the day.

  2. Heart stents that track blood flow

    Heart stents have been used for decades to keep clogged arteries open and prevent a heart attack. However one out of every three people who have had a stent implanted experience restenosis — the renewed narrowing of the artery due to plaque buildup or scarring — which can lead to additional complications.

    With the coupling of specialized nanomaterials “coated” onto a stent that sense small but detectable narrowing of arteries perhaps through minute piezoelectric changes, the data can then be sent wirelessly to an external reader, providing constantly updated information on the artery's condition,"

    Recently, a "smart stent" has been developed with a special micro-sensor to continuously track blood flow, monitoring even small changes in the flow of blood through the artery. By detecting the narrowing in its earliest stages, the stent enables early diagnosis makes treatment possible.

  3. Devices that carry a drug dosage only to cancerous cell

    Perhaps the most publicized use of nanotechnology in drug delivery under development is the use of nanoparticles to deliver drugs to cancer cells. In modern medicine, patients receiving medication to treat tumors are often given drugs that disperse throughout the entire body, even though the section of the organ to be treated may be only small and clearly demarcated. Nanoparticles are engineered so that they are attracted to diseased cells, which allows direct treatment of those cells. This technique reduces damage to healthy cells in the body.

    Many researchers attach ethylene glycol molecules to nanoparticles that deliver therapeutic drugs to cancer tumors. The ethylene glycol molecules stop white blood cells from recognizing the nanoparticles as foreign materials, allowing them to circulate in the blood stream long enough to attach to cancer tumors. As our understanding of the biochemical signaling process governing different cancers improves, look for better and more specific nanoparticles as delivery vehicles to bring cancer cell destroying drugs on-target with less side-effects and improved outcomes.

  4. Age-old malaria treatment can help bypass liver “filter”

    A recent study finds that a 70-year-old malaria drug can block immune cells in the liver so nanoparticles can arrive at their intended tumor site, overcoming a significant hurdle of targeted drug delivery.

    Because the immune cells of the liver and spleen filter out most of the drug dosage intended to reach the tumor site, many cancer patients do not respond to chemotherapies. Even in nanomedicine, which is one of the best new methods for delivering drugs to a tumor, only about one percent of a dose of nanoparticles will successfully arrive at the intended tumor site.

    Using chloroquine, the researchers not only increased the circulation of nanoparticles in the body, but also reduced the body's filtration of nanoparticles, as well as improved drug delivery to tumors.

  5. Artificial inner ears that can restore lost hearing

    One in eight U.S. adults has hearing loss, and more than 90 percent of hearing loss is sensorineural meaning there is damage to the hair cells in the inner ear or to the nerve pathways that lead from the inner ear to the brain. To date, treatment options have been limited due to lack of noninvasive targeted delivery systems. However, nanoparticles may be the key to the remedy. Nanoparticles can stabilize and carry biomaterials into the inner ear, and ligand bioconjugation onto nanoparticle surfaces allows for specific targeting. This new methodology can have a dramatic impact on America’s aging population, as more than one in three people between the ages of 65 and 74 have hearing loss in both ears.

    The implantable cochlear device, developed 40 years ago to treat profound hearing loss, is also experiencing an upgrade due to recent scientific developments. Current cochlear implants are secured to bone underneath the skin behind the external ear and transmit through internal cable to electrodes in the cochlea. The nanotechnology-enabled advance integrates various parts of a cochlear implant onto one chip that can be surgically implanted inside of the ear, spanning from the middle ear to the cochlea.

Want to learn more about how nanotechnology is impacting health care? Contact EASi now.