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Nanotechnology in Natural Health Products
- Once only a figment of science fiction, nanotechnology is very real today can might be the answer to some of our more serious medical issues
- Dendrimers are possible through nanotechnology and can help us determine the location of an infection, say, like a respiratory infection
- With the use of nano-instruments, 13 million Americans and millions more around the world who have coronary heart disease can be helped
One of the most fascinating ideas in science fiction was the idea of shrinking people down and placing them inside the human body. While we still don’t have that technology available and, probably, never will, nanotechnology has brought us into this realm. Ask the average person on the street and many may have heard the term but most won’t have clear understanding of what it means or how it might be useful to them in the near future. Here’s a brief primer to bring those of us who aren’t in the field up to speed.
Basically, nanotechnology refers to the use of very, very small materials to achieve specific goals. How small is small? Consider that the thickness of a sheet of notebook paper is about 100,000 nanometers. When scientists are working with materials in nanotechnology, they are handling things like the quantum dot which has a width of 5 nanometers or a carbon nanotube which has a diameter of 1.3 nanometers.
The concept and utility of nanotechnology is that at these small size materials can have different properties which can provide numerous benefits. For example, some materials are stronger or have increased magnetic ability. Others provide virtually friction free lubrication. Being able to utilize these properties can provide science with an almost limitless array of useful technologies.
How Will Nanotechnology be Useful?
Although nanotechnology can be used in many different industries, some of the most exciting potential developments are in the field of medicine and health. Dendrimers are one example. These are materials made up of many nanostructures. They are inserted into the body and can be used to provide accurate information about internal conditions, or that can even deliver drugs directly to the location of an infection or disease. The dendrimers can even handle multiple tasks within the body simultaneously, such as reporting dead cells and locating the specific area of the problem.
Another medical use is the development of miniature surgical instruments for procedures such as heart surgeries. Traditionally, heart surgery has been a very invasive process with patients’ sternums cut open to access the heart. During the surgery, the heart must be put in a state of arrest in order to complete the surgery. Unfortunately, these methods have lead to a fairly high percentage of death and recovery after surgery is also much slower. With the use of nano-instruments, however, these types of surgeries can be completed without requiring such invasive techniques. This development alone could help the 13 million Americans and millions more around the world who have coronary heart disease.
Nanotechnology can also help prevent health problems. Cornell University researchers have found the technology can be used to create tiny sensors which can be placed in the head of cotton swabs. When the swabs collect a sample from a counter, for example, they can detect the presence of different types of harmfulbacteria, such as E. coli.
This technology could also revolutionize the treatment of cancer. Instead of allowing chemotherapy to affect the patient’s entire body, for example, the drugs could be delivered directly to the tumor or cancer-affected area which would minimize the side effects of the treatment and strongly focus the effectiveness of the drug.
Overall, nanotechnology has exciting and potentially limitless possibilities for medicine and for other industries. Only time will tell, however, how many of these possibilities come to fruition and how many others end up as science fiction.
The information supplied in this article is not to be considered as medical advice and is for educational purposes only.
|Natural Products2 Oct 2008|