Nanomedicine part 1: New drug delivery systems
A nanometer is one billionth of a meter, which is pretty small — so small that particles that are nanometers in size cannot even be seen with a regular microscope. Nanoparticles are of a size range of molecules found within living cells. Nanomedicines are particulate drug delivery systems that are able to penetrate cells that traditional medicines cannot. In other words, nanomedicines can boldly go where no drug has gone before.
Therapeutic goals of nanomedicine
Traditional medicines are hindered by the body’s own defense mechanisms, such as biological barriers, metabolism and the immune response. Nanomedicines that do not have any such limitations are in development. As a result, nanomedicine is poised to revolutionize drug production and delivery in the very near future.
There are many different kinds of nanomedicines. These include biologicals or biocompatibles (like viruses), synthetics, nanocomposites, and even nanoelectronics. The therapeutic goals for the development of these medications basically is to deliver less medication to targeted tissues only, resulting in more effective treatment with fewer adverse effects.
Nanomedicines can be inhaled, ingested, injected or absorbed through the skin. Some nanomedicines are already in widespread use, such as the anti-anorexia medication megestrol acetate and several chemotherapeutic agents. Many others are in the pre-clinical stages of development for diagnosis, cancer treatment, tissue repair or replacement, and gene therapy. We use some in everyday products, like the titanium dioxide and other nanoparticles in cosmetics, lotions and sunscreen.
Ethical considerations with nanomedicine
As advances continue at a fast pace in the field of nanomedicine, ethical considerations must be part of the conversation. The potential dangers of nanomedicine are limited only by one’s imagination. While standard safety precautions and risk management strategies are employed during preclinical and clinical testing, the element of the unknown looms large in this unprecedented field. Public awareness of these emerging technologies can help build a system of checks and balances when it comes to ethical scientific and medical practices. The responsibility for the well-being of humanity lies not only in the hands of our scientists, but also with us.
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About the author
Dana Connolly, Ph.D., is a senior staff writer for the Sovereign Health Group, where she translates current research into practical information. She earned her Ph.D. in research and theory development from New York University and has decades of experience in clinical care, medical research and health education. The Sovereign Health Group is a health information resource and Dr. Connolly helps to ensure excellence in our model. For more information and other inquiries about this article, contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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