Nanobiotechnology - What Is It and What Will Be Its Likely Impact in the Medical World?

Topics Covered

How Nanobiotechnology Techniques Can Be Applied in Medicine

Other Medical Applications for Nanobiotechnology Techniques

Proteomics, Genomics, Nanoengineering and Nanorobot Therapeutics

How Nanobiotechnology Techniques Can Be Applied in Medicine

Nanobiotechnology offers the key to faster and remote diagnostic techniques - including new high throughput diagnostics, multi-parameter, tunable diagnostic techniques, and biochips for a variety of assays. It also enables the development of tissue-engineered medical products and artificial organs, such as heart valves, veins and arteries, liver and skin. These can be grown from the individual’s own tissues as stem cells on a 3-D scaffold, or by the expansion of other cell types on a suitable substrate. 

Other Medical Applications for Nanobiotechnology Techniques

Nanobiotechnology provides methods, too, testing the compatibility of organs from donor animals and humans, to new materials for replacement bone and teeth. Nanobiotechnology is also paving the way for retinal, cochlear and neural implants and nanopatterned substrates to encourage the growth, regeneration and repair of tissues. These are dramatic new developments in medical treatments, with huge scope for diffusion. The applications which seem likely to be most immediately in place are external tissue grafts; dental and bone replacements; protein and gene analysis; internal tissue implants; and nanotechnology applications within in-vivo testing devices and various other medical devices. 

Proteomics, Genomics, Nanoengineering and Nanorobot Therapeutics

Nanotechnology is applied in a variety of ways across this wide range of products. Smaller chip arrays will ensure faster analysis for proteomics and genomics. Artificial organs will demand nanoengineering to affect the chemical functionality presented at a membrane or artificial surface and thus avoid rejection by the host. There has been much speculation and publicity about more futuristic developments such as nanorobot therapeutics, but these do not seem likely within our time horizon.  

Primary author: Dr John Taylor, OBE, FRS, FEng, Director-General of the Research Councils.

Source: Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Report entitled ‘New Dimensions for Manufacturing: A UK Strategy for Nanotechnology’, published in June 2002.

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