An ever-growing list of scientific professionals are putting on their lab coats and focusing their super-powered microscopes on Nanotechnology – also known as the study of very, very, very small things. Engineers, physicists, mathematicians… heck, even the technophiles of Silicon Valley are turning their heads.
Nanorobots patrolling your blood stream, the cure for diabetes, anti-aging on the fly… the study of nanotechnology is challenging the impossible and bridging the gap between real life and science fiction. We’re going to zoom in and take a closer look at 14 HUGE ways that Nanotechnology could revolutionize the world of medicine.
The bottle of SPF 40 that you carry in your beach bag? Yeah, that’s nanotechnology hard at work. Sunscreen contains nanoparticles of both titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, designed to reflect and absorb harmful UV radiation. Nanoparticles make your sunscreen easier to spread, invisible to the naked eye and more effective at protecting your skin.
But UV protection doesn’t end with Coppertone. More and more clothing companies are researching nanoparticles to enhance performance apparel. And you thought that $80 button-up was pricey…
Imagine a world without follow-up doctor visits, specialist appointments and the freezing cold shock of a stethoscope. Nanotechnology has the potential to revolutionize the way doctors diagnose everything from the common cold to life-threatening diseases. It all comes down to nano-robots — or, robots small enough to enter your bloodstream.
When these uber-accurate nano-robots are introduced into your blood stream, they’d provide you and your doctor with real-time data, alerting everyone when something just isn’t quite right. It could work a lot like the engine light on your car. (Except you wouldn’t want to ignore this one.)
Precise Delivery of Drugs and Medication
Medication, antibiotics and steroids could all, one day, be enhanced by a nanotech delivery system. In theory, the system would work a lot like UPS… but on the cellular level! Medication would be delivered quickly and efficiently to the areas of your body that need it most.
Stomach ache? Not anymore! Runny nose? Gone. Things get really interesting when painkillers enter the mix. Eliminate lower back pain without nodding off from the grogginess.
Surgery is incredibly demanding on the body. Weeks of prep and hours under the knife often results in months spent wasting away in recovery. But, with an increased reliance on nanotech, surgery could be performed at the molecular level. Not only would the procedure be much more precise, it could also be done a lot quicker, require a lot less recovery time and leave you without a single scar.
I can picture it now: “Hey boss, I need to run out for an hour. I’m having reconstructive shoulder surgery. Don’t worry, I’ll be back by one.”
Calorie counting apps, heart rate monitors and step-counting watches could be a thing of the past. Through the introduction of nanotech sensors, you’d be able to monitor everything from exercise recovery time to hydration levels… at the cellular level.
Real-time data of this magnitude would revolutionize sports medicine, athlete performance and the capabilities of the human body as we know it today. Workout efficiency would skyrocket, eating habits would change overnight and every one of these weight loss myths would be tossed out for good. Now, if only they could make poutine less delicious.
Gold Nanoparticles for Cancer Therapy
Let’s take a moment to look at a way in which nanotechnology is changing the face of medicine right now.
Gold Nanoparticles for cancer therapy is already in the clinical trial stage. Think of it in terms of a yellow highlighter in a workbook. You “highlight” the important information so you that know exactly what you need to focus on. Gold Nanoparticles do the same thing for cancer cells. Highlighting the bad cells to increase visibility and increase the effectiveness of life saving radiation treatments.
The cells that make up the human body are incredibly small. But, with nanomachines on the molecular scale, we may be able to repair cells and uncover the mysteries of cell regeneration. Bear with me here.
The beauty industry is CONSTANTLY looking for ways to make you look and feel younger. But, if and when nanotechnology takes off, you can toss those age defying face lotions in the trash. Nano-robots could regenerate dying cells and keep us looking fresh-faced and youthful forever!
Back-up for Your Immune System
Synthetic robots patrolling your blood stream for unwanted bacteria! It’s more than just the premise for the world’s tiniest action movie. Programmable nano-robots could help back up your white blood cells and patrol your body for unwanted germs.
It would eradicate life-threatening immune deficiencies, make allergies extinct… and destroy everything that might make you sick. The chicken soup industry might take a bit of a financial hit, but I think we can live with that. Pro tip: start working on your sick day excuses now.
I know what you’re thinking: “Sure… never being sick again and staying young forever is great, but do I still have to go to the dentist?” Well, chalk up another win for team Nanotechnology!
Nanodentistry is a thing that could actually exist in the not-so-distant future. Picture a mouthful of tiny dentists hard at work, constantly making sure that your pearly whites are indeed white. They could even reconstruct your smile on the go and eliminate the need for braces. High school nerds, throw away your retainers, rejoice and say cheese!
Now here’s one that hits home for a whole lot of people and has the potential to save a whole lot of lives. Scientists at MIT have theorized that nanoparticles could be designed to function as an artificial pancreas for people suffering from Type 1 Diabetes. No more needles, no more test strips, and no more diet management. These hypothetical particles would regulate the patient’s glucose levels and secrete insulin as required.
Curing diabetes with tiny robots! It really doesn’t get any cooler than that.
As a sports fan and someone who tries to live an active lifestyle, this is a big one. Weeks spent trying to scratch beneath that super-itchy cast could also be a thing of the past. Not only could nanoparticles help cut down on broken bone recovery time, but what’s to say that they couldn’t make your bones even stronger?
Prosthetics have come a long way in our lifetime. And, they may go even further before we’re done. As it stands right now, silver nanoparticles are being used to enhance the functionality of modern day prosthetics. But, the introduction of smart nanoparticles may be the key to bridging the gap between a prosthetic hand and the central nervous system that controls it. Nothing could truly replace a missing limb, but this is as close as it gets.
Whether it’s genetic or a direct result of bad eating habits, heart disease is a huge issue for a lot of people. A world with super advanced nano-robots could do away with that, too. Regenerating cells, clearing blockages… the possibilities are endless. For now though, try and limit the bacon double cheese burgers to special occasions.
I admit… this one may be a little way away. Nanotechnology is in its infancy, and scientists are still far from fully grasping the composition of the human genome.
That being said, the combination of both nanotechnology and genetic engineering is an interesting thought indeed. Genetic defects, hereditary diseases, our appearance… all of these could, hypothetically, be altered or eliminated through gene therapy.