Nanotechnologies are offering new perspectives on healthcare. Where nanomaterials, nano-encapsulation, nano-sensors, nanobiology and synthetic technology offer the most potential. The following three areas are believed to have the most impact on society.
Regenerative medicine for the cure of diseases and injuries. In order to regenerate or make artificial organs, cells or tissues, bodily substances are used. Cells from a human body provide possibilities to make tissues used for transplantation, even in absence of donors with even lower chances of rejection.
Example: Mireille Claessens works at the nanobiophysics ground at the University of Twente (https://www.utwente.nl/en/tnw/nbp/). She is trying to understand Parkinson’s disease by studying the nano-fibrils and the principles of alfsynucleine, proteins that are being created during Parkinson’s disease, aiming to slow down Parkinson’s disease.
Diagnostic and assistive medical devices with improved features and functionalities. Nanotechnology can aid in making these easier, faster, cheaper and have more accurate measurements. For instance, minimally invasive insulin pumps for people who have diabetes. These can be designed to include smaller devices, making the disease less visible and apparent. The lives of patients can be made easier by using automatic detection and secretion of insulin. In particular for lifelong diseases, nanotechnologies prevent people from constantly feeling like a patient.
Example: Sensors are being developed to detect early-stage intestine cancer in urine. The device possible could detect new biomarkers in urine, which can be applied to detect various diseases, including cancer. This work is done by BIOS lab-on-a chip-group in cooperation with the VUMC (News: developing-a-urine-test-for-various-types-of-cancer).
Targeted and personalized medical treatments, in particular for cancer treatment. As cancer can occur in many different types, a targeted treatment can help defeat individual types of cancer. With nanotechnology, more specific nanobiology, different biological markers can be found which are unique for single types of cancer.
Example: Jurriaan Huskens is working at University of Twente on the question: Why are some viruses contagious for people while others aren’t? He is creating artificial cell surfaces which can be used to gain more insight into which influenza viruses have a greater chance of becoming dangerous to humans (News: one-million-euros-for-ut-research-into-flu-virus).
Technologies that make life with a disease more bearable by the development of medical devices.
Mesoscale chemical systems: New way non-invasive way of injecting medicines – needle free injection
- Researcher: David Fernandez Rivaz
- More info: https://www.utwente.nl/en/news/!/2016/5/497052/grant-for-needle-free-injection
- Application: Fernandez Rivas’ ultimate goal is to see to it that his device becomes available to the general public. This is why he is exploring ways of transforming his technology into a user-friendly, safe and inexpensive product.
Creative ways to explore the developments in nano and health
The NANO Supermarket presents speculative nanotech products that may hit the shelves within the next ten years: Medicinal candy, interactive wall paint, programmable wine and more. Our debate provoking products are both innovative as well as uncanny and disturbing. They function as scenarios for potential technological futures, helping us to decide what future we actually want.