As nanotechnology continues to advance, things that were once thought impossible are on the horizon for the 21st century. From lightsaber-like plasma scalpels, to nanobeacons that improve tumor imaging and deliver drugs accurately, and even nanobots released into the bloodstream, nanotechnology and medicine are making great strides together. In our lifetimes, we’ll bear witness to some of the most exciting technological advances in modern medicine, and most of them will be too small to see with the naked eye.
By concentrating a high-pressure stream of argon gas through a nano-sized channel, scalpels that cut with extremely fine streams of plasma are becoming possible. With a blade four times finer than today’s scalpels, these nanotechnology knives will revolutionize invasive surgery. In addition to being far more precise, plasma scalpels will be able to cut and cauterize all at once, reducing the amount of internal bleeding during surgery and quickening recovery times, all without damaging surrounding tissue.
Nanobeacons in Imaging
MRIs and CAT scans have already given doctors incredible insights into the workings of a patient’s body. No longer do they have to rely on photographs and charts, they can peer directly into the bodies of each individual. With nanobeacons, tiny particles with a binding affinity for certain types of cancer cells, the scans of tomorrow will look like something out of the movies. These tiny particles are specially created to display in ultra-high contrast when viewed with an imaging machine, making even the smallest tumors easily visible. Combined with traditional therapy, nanotechnology will help to insure that when a surgeon removes a cancerous mass from a patient’s body, not a bit is left behind.
Smartdrug Delivery Systems
An interesting offshoot of nanobeacons, smartdrugs are encapsulated in a matrix that selectively binds to cancerous cells. This nanotechnology will make whole-body chemotherapy a thing of the past, as the drugs are dispersed directly to the infected or cancerous site. Although some patients receive targeted therapies today, smartdrugs will be able to be dispensed directly from an IV bag, making targeted therapy cheaper and far more accessible for patients. Clinical testing is currently underway for patients with broken bones, with the smartdrugs that promote bone grown specifically seeking out the site of the break, both speeding recovery and augmenting our bodies natural bone growth. Although they will likely be deployed first in individuals with serious diseases, infections, and cancer, smartdrugs are on track to revolutionize entire fields of medical care.
Nanobots in the Bloodstream
Although a bit further down the line than the previous applications, we will likely see the use of nanobots to supplement our immune systems, fight aging, and in a whole host of other, more preventative, therapies. Nanotechnology, like many other technologies, will become far more complex with time. Many people believe that tiny machines will give a boost to our bodies immune system by circulating in the bloodstream and binding to cells and rejuvenating them by making chromosomal repairs and metabolizing toxins which would otherwise kill the cell. These technologies, as they continue to mature, could stave off the effects of aging as well as prevent a whole host of diseases, changing the way that humans treat, and even perceive, diseases and aging forever.