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The Medicine Man of the Future is Tiny

Nanotechnology promises us a radically different medicine compared to the cut, poke and carpet bomb (think chemotherapy) medicine of today. In the future, extremely precise nanomedicine procedures will allow medical professionals to diagnose, intervene, and monitor on the level of individual cells. A generally accepted definition of nanomedicine refers to highly specific medical intervention at the molecular scale for curing disease or repairing damaged tissues, such as bone, muscle, or nerve. The two major differentiators of nanomedicine will be the tools it uses—the main workhorse will be multifunctional nanoparticles—and the fact that it will enable perfectly targeted and individual treatments: organs and bones, really any body tissue, will one day be diagnosed and treated on a cell by cell basis with precise dosing and monitoring through the use of biomolecular sensors. Even more advanced, nanotechnology-enabled tissue engineering will become a medical treatment with the goal to replace or restore the anatomical structure and function of damaged, injured, or missing tissue. At the core of tissue engineering is the construction of three-dimensional scaffolds out of biomaterials to provide mechanical support and guide cell growth into new tissues or organs. Experimental efforts are already underway for tissue engineering involving virtually every type of tissue and every organ of the human body. Although products classified as nanomedicine products have indeed appeared over the past decade, such products have not exactly revolutionized treatment paradigms as envisaged earlier. In particular, no molecular machine or nanorobot has yet entered clinical trials, although research in these areas is picking up pace. Nevertheless, advances in micro- and nanoscale engineering in the medical field have led to the development of various robotic designs that one day will allow a new level of minimally-invasive medicine. These micro- and nanorobots will be able to reach a targeted area, provide treatments and therapies for a desired duration, measure the effects and, at the conclusion of the treatment, be removed or degrade without causing adverse effects. Ideally, all these tasks would be automated but they could also be performed under the direct supervision and control of an external user.

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Print publication date
30 Aug 2016
Copyright year
Print ISBN
ePub eISBN