Nanotechnology: The Future of Medicine

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Modern medicine has always been a fascinating and ever-evolving juggernaut. Over the years, doctors and scientists alike have found new, revolutionary ways to treat heart diseasemigraines, and many other maladies. What about approaching medicine from a microscopic scale? I used to play a video game where the main protagonist had nanomachines implanted in his body that controlled various physiological aspects of his health, and I always wondered if this type of technology could actually be implemented in the medical field. While the video game was way ahead of its time, it was an accurate prediction of things to come.

Nanotechnology, itself, is the engineering and manufacturing of matter at an atomic or molecular level. It is the shrinking of modern technology to a microscopic scale that is measured in nanometers. How small is a nanometer? The following illustration puts into prospective the size of a nanometer relative to everyday objects.

 

The idea of nanotechnology has been around, surprisingly, since 1959 when the theoretical physicist Richard Feynman conceived of the idea and foresaw its use in the future. Nanotechnology is used to create cosmetics, sunscreen, cleaning products, and many other consumer products.

A thermal insulator used by NASA created with nanotechnology..

A thermal insulator used by NASA created with nanotechnology..

The use of nanomaterials in consumer products is now commonplace, but what is really exciting is the potential for nanotechnology to revolutionize modern medicine. Scientists and researchers are discovering new ways that nanotechnology can be used in the near future. It will be used for drug delivery, treatment and detection of cancer and other diseases, imaging, and much more.

One of the more interesting uses of nanotechnology in medicine is the "nanorobot." The nanorobot is a microscopic robot that can be used for cancer treatment, drug delivery, or even heart bypass surgery. As it enters the bloodstream through a tiny incision and travels through the many veins and arteries it has the capability of finding specific cancer cells and treating them. This could effectively eliminate the side effects of radiation and chemotherapy as they would not be needed. Nanorobots could also cut down on surgery time, recovery time, and the various-side effects related to procedures such as heart bypass surgery.

A visual representation of nanorobot.

A visual representation of nanorobot.

The possibility that nanobots could deliver medication to exactly where it is needed could change all our lives forever. With this system of delivery, you would never have to worry about that long list of side effects that never seem to end. The nanobot would send the medication only where it is needed as opposed to the traditional way of entering the bloodstream and effecting all of the body's systems.

Visualization of drug-delivery nanobot.

Visualization of drug-delivery nanobot.

As I slowly approach middle age, it excites me that this new medical technology will be here in the near future. The thought alone of taking medication without side effects gives me much hope for the future as some medications can be crippling. While the future is uncertain, we can be rest assured that great things are to come in the field of medicine.