Editorial Feature

Medical Applications Using Nanotechnology in Australia

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Australia’s strongest biotechnology sub-sector is the biomedical industry. The main focus of the Australian skills in the biomedical sub-sector is on products like therapeutics, diagnostics, medical devices, and vaccines.

Nanotechnology Victoria—Biomedical Projects

Every member of Nanotechnology Victoria is strongly skilled in bioengineering, and these skills are utilized to the maximum in a line of projects to make new functional materials for the agricultural, medical, and pharmaceutical industries.

The functional materials include:

  • Implantable materials
  • Biologically active membranes
  • Arrays
  • Stemcell scaffolds
  • Skin products and delivery systems

The responsibility for the development and management of projects in the field of new biomaterials lies is in the hands of Dr Bob Irving of Nanotechnology Victoria. Some of the current proposals are listed below:

  • Procedures for incorporating therapeutic and nutritional products in nanostructured materials and delivering through inhaled or skin products
  • Agricultural products with nanoscale characteristics that allow either better diffusion or better absorption on plant surfaces
  • Use of nanoparticles in diagnostic systems, specifically nanoparticles that have distinctive optical properties or whose magnetic features can be leveraged

In addition, Nanotechnology Victoria handles certain biomedical projects in diagnostics and drug delivery.

Opportunities for Nanotechnology

New solutions in several biomedical fields could be offered by Nanotechnology:

  • Managed molecular recognition: diagnostics that link molecular reaction to signaling mechanisms
  • Managed molecular interaction: drug delivery
  • Customized implants and biocompatible bone or joint replacements
  • Potential to use molecularly imprinted polymers and other mechanisms to create intended products with high purity
  • Comprehending and finding solutions for the aging process through genetic research at the molecular level
  • “Smart” materials: substances with functional (physical, electrical, optical, or thermal) abilities; eventually, combining biological process with electronics, for example, biological semiconductors

Potential Health Benefits

Nanotechnology Victoria has offered a presentation describing 10 prospective benefits from nanotechnology to human health, such as:

  • Quicker, more precise disease diagnosis
  • Prevention of infection
  • Treatments that will attack the disease and not the body
  • More accurate, minimally invasive surgery
  • More secure, more accurate MRI
  • Stronger antibiotics
  • Safer drinking water
  • Improved UV protection
  • High-quality nutritional supplements
  • Disinfected surfaces

Biomedicine in Australia

Ever since the role in developing penicillin fetched a Noble prize for Howard Florey in 1945, Australia has been leading the field of biomedicine. Other notable discoveries by Australia include the design of bionic ear, and the first-ever purification and cloning of three major regulators of blood cell formation: GMCSF, GCSF, and LIF.

Bio21 is one of the important biomedical organizations in Victoria. It is a collective body of associates dedicated to developing, training, and commercializing clinical research, biomedical science, and biotechnology discoveries. There are two other significant biomedical institutes in Victoria, The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, and the Monash Institute for Health. Both have had notable achievements in research and education.

Mentioned below are the members of Nanotechnology Victoria with key skills in these areas:

  • Food Science Australia (CSIRO a major partner)
  • Monash University School of Biomedical Sciences
  • CSIRO Health Science and Nutrition
  • RMIT
  • Swinburne University Bioengineering, and MiniFAB

Drug Delivery

In the biomedical industry, particularly the medical device and diagnostic areas, drug delivery techniques leveraging the enabling technology of nanotechnology and biomaterial in optical devices are the rising strengths for Australian practitioners.

Opportunities for Nanotechnology

There are several features of nanotechnology that make it an appropriate tool to attend to crucial problems in biopharmaceutical delivery:

  • Gene and vaccine delivery
  • Minimizing particle size and increasing surface area, thereby improving solubility
  • Developing new nanoporous membranes for controlled-release devices
  • Improvement in oral bioavailability
  • Increases biocompatibility by artificial surface engineering of implants
  • Targeting cells, tissues, and cellular receptors
  • Enables crossing of biological membranes particularly through the blood-brain barrier

Following are the major advancements for nanotechnology-driven drug delivery:

  • Delivery-Composites- and potential value of polymer composites
  • ADEPT Technology for secured and targeted delivery of toxic therapeutic drugs
  • Bioavailability (solubility) as the main driver for nanostructuring of drugs and reagents

According to a market analysis conducted in March 2004, “Nanotechnology is currently applied in ~1% of drug delivery technologies under development; by 2015, ~14% of drug delivery technologies may use nanotechnology.”

Biopharmaceutical Delivery Projects

Transdermal Delivery

The transdermal delivery process focuses on the painless distribution of large biopharmaceutical molecules over the typically impervious outer surface of the skin, done by skin contact with topologically undulating patches. This project is about evaluation and demonstration of the delivery of large peptide and proteins like (1) hormones, (2) drugs, (3) vaccines, and (4) local wound-healing agents for human and animal health.

Particle Engineering

The focus of particle engineering is nanoparticulate structuring and efficacy of delivery of nanoparticulate biological reagents for human health. More advancements in particle engineering are being considered.

Biopolymer Needles

The objective of this project is to use biocompatible polymers to make microneedles for drug delivery. Later, these can be utilized for transdermal drug delivery as well as for sampling devices for human and veterinary applications. The initial demonstrations with these would include the demonstration of the delivery of functionalized non-toxic quantum dots (BioQDs) as carrier particles for in vivo imaging and reagent delivery.

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