What if the human could search and destroy the very first cancer cells that caused a tumor to develop in the body? What if a broken cell could be removed and replaced by a biological machine? These are all simple questions that once ran in our curious minds. It is now the key technology of 21st century. Our imagination is stretched to utmost (not as in fiction) to imagine things which are not really there. But these things ‘are’ there. Procedures that were inconceivable yesterday became achievable today and would probably turn out to be a routine tomorrow.
Although nanoscience and nanotechnology are quite new, nanoscale materials were used for centuries. Alternate sized gold and silver particles created colors in stained glass windows of medieval churches hundreds of years ago. In 1959, Dr. Richard Feynman, an American physicist, described a process whereby scientists would be able to control individual atoms and molecules, long before the term was even used. It was only after invention of ‘Scanning tunneling microscope’in the 80’s that allowed scientists to look at individual atom for the first time. And hence began the journey of Nanotechnology!
Our Earth is made of atoms of the size which is impossible to be seen with a naked eye. This technology gives us the ability to see and control these individual atoms and molecules and manipulate them. Outset of this technology can be traced back to the time when revolutionary advances in communication, robotics, medicine and genomics took place. As far as medicine is concerned, Nanotechnology has a potential to fundamentally change the face of medicine in the coming decades.
The nanomedicine vision of future is an early detection of pathological changes at molecular level by means of unambiguous-highly accurate imaging methods. Today, many techniques are making remarkable progress towards becoming realities. Such techniques were only imagined a few years ago. Researchers are hitting 'chakkas' with their breakthrough backbreaking work in this field. Some are developing methods to deliver cardiac stem cells to damaged heart tissue. Some are using antibodies attached to carbon nanotubes in chips to detect cancer cells in blood streams. Other researches like synthetic platelets from nanoparticle polymers for hemorrhagic patients and advancement of biosensors have prospective in future.
However, the new prospects opened by nanomedicine are also associated with risks and socio-ethical questions, which should not be ignored. Knowing all of this, a question then arises: if simple, inexpensive diagnosis and therapy are possible, will everyone then benefit from medicine? Maybe! But only in an era when patients don’t die because of lack of healthcare providers. An era where medical students can focus on becoming the best versions of themselves rather than protesting for months because of the malpractices of institutions.