Cancer Research using Nanotech is Underway in the USA
The National Cancer Institute is presently in the 3rd year of a five-year initiative to fight cancer by using nanotechnology. The NCI Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer will spearhead the effort, specifically to develop engineered nanoparticles to treat cancer.
To that end, NCI plans to spend $144 million over the next five years to support the initiative. The largest chunk of the initiative's budget--$90 million over five years--will go toward funding several Centers of Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence.
"We in the cancer research community must reach out to scientists and experts from any discipline that offers new ways of understanding, interfering with, and ultimately curing cancer," noted American Association for Cancer Research President Lynn M. Matrisian in a statement. "This nanotechnology initiative provides an important new model for how to do this."
Cancer and Vision Applications Today
Nanotechnology has the potential to improve medicine in many areas. A pair of research developments move nanotechnology treatments for cancer and degenerative eye problems closer to reality.
Researchers from Harvard Medical School and the University of Connecticut have developed a cancer treatment that uses nanoparticles to encapsulate light-sensitive molecules. Nanoparticles are bits of matter not much bigger than molecules. When a nanoparticles is absorbed by a cell it releases the encapsulated molecules. Exposure to visible light makes the molecules toxic, killing the cells. The nanoparticles completely eradicated several types of cancer tumors in mice, according to the researchers.
Meanwhile, researchers from the University of Tokyo, Osaka Prefecture University and Santen Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd. in Japan have developed a macular degeneration treatment for the form of the eye disease that is caused by blood vessels growing under the retina. The nanoscale treatment involves two types molecules -- one type is light-sensitive and the other aggregates into nanoscale clumps. The clumps accumulate on the menu blood vessels; when the clumps are exposed to light they destroy the blood vessels.
The Future of Nanotech Medicine
Aubrey de Grey, Ph.D. at Cambridge University - thinks the first therapies for life extension will probably not involve nanotech at all. He thinks the first threapies will be mostly biotech - and we'll get there before nanotech becomes sufficiently sophisticated.
He thinks that it's quite likely that pure biotechnology will come up against some brick walls. And at that time, we'll need machinery that's fundamentally different from enzymes and vaccines and pharmaceuticals. As the understanding of biological processes becomes more intricate and more complex, we'll need machinery that we can control as precisely as we control computers. This is the era in which nanomedicine will be at the heart of all medicine