Nanomedicine is an application of nanotechnology to enhance medical applications such as diagnosis, treatment, and disease prevention by lowering costs and advancing the sector. In this article, AZoNano discusses how sustainable nanomedicine is helping the healthcare sector take an eco-friendly transition.
Image Credit: petrmalinak/Shutterstock.com
What Does Sustainability Look Like in Healthcare?
Healthcare can be defined as the integration and aggregation of sectors within the economic system framework which offer products and services for the curative, rehabilitative, palliative, and preventative care of patients.
A sustainable healthcare system intends to provide high-quality care while inflicting minimal environmental damage and utilizing every opportunity to improve and restore the environment for the benefit and well-being of present and future generations. Evidence suggests that activities of a healthcare system significantly impact the environment and have transformed into challenges to achieving sustainability.
Medicine toxicity (harmful side effects), hazardous waste production, wastewater discharge, greenhouse gas emissions, high costs, and massive resource consumption are a few of these activities. In fact, between seventy-five to ninety percent of waste generated in the healthcare industry could cause various health and environmental concerns.
Another challenge is to combat potentially fatal and complex diseases, including diabetes, Parkinson's disease, and cancer. These illnesses have a detrimental impact on the patient, as well as society as a whole. Therefore, it becomes essential to face these challenges with appropriate eco-friendly means to create a sustainable healthcare system.
Building Sustainable Healthcare | Edward Booty | TEDxSingapore
Video Credit: TEDx Talks/YouTube.com
Can Nanomedicine Incorporate Sustainable Practices?
Technological developments in the healthcare sector have fortunately shown the potential to improve both human health and the environment. The challenges faced on the road to achieving sustainability can be addressed by nanomedicine.
Nanomedicine is the key to developing new tools to address multiple issues faced by the healthcare sector, and is considered essential for economic and technological advancements. These are a fundamental element in making medications and treatments affordable and accessible to all.
Eco-friendly practices in nanomedicine include switching from environmentally toxic drugs and chemicals to natural compounds like flavonoids for therapeutic purposes. Nano-based delivery systems and nano-formulations are promising solutions to treat metabolic diseases as they increase the bio-distribution, bioavailability, solubility, and stability of natural compounds.
An article published in the journal “Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology” highlighted the development of sustainable and environmentally friendly practices in nanomedicine. The study focused on using various bioactive components found in plants as therapeutic drugs. These bioactive compounds were to be encapsulated in nanomaterials or nanosystems to treat medical conditions such as diabetic wound healing. When left untreated, it can result in limb amputations.
For instance, substances like Quercetin (QCT), found in various medicinal plants like Sambucus Canadensis, are known to heal and cure wounds due to their anti-carcinogenic antioxidant, anti-fibrotic, and anti-inflammatory properties.
Badhwar et al., formulated a hydrogel containing QCT-loaded silver nanoparticles (QCT-AgNPs) for the treatment of diabetic wounds. The QCT-AgNP hydrogel reduced the wound space within diabetic wound model, as per the in vivo tests conducted.
Researchers have conclusively demonstrated that plant extracts perform as precursors (a bio-reduction and a stabilizing agent) for the fabrication of metallic nanomaterials, such as copper nanoparticles, owing to the presence of several secondary metabolites in them. The synthesis approach can be utilized to treat medical conditions in the healthcare sector since it is economical, non-hazardous, and eco-friendly.
In recent studies, mucilage (a polysaccharide compound) extracted from chan bean, mozote stem, and linaza bean has been used to synthesize electrospun nanofibers (ESNFs). Results revealed that ESNFs made from plant mucilage were suitable for fibroblast cellular proliferation and that mucilage isolated from chan beans was the most potent in stimulating cell proliferation.
Evidence from research developments like these indicates the incorporation of eco-friendly practices in nanomedicine for establishing a sustainable, non-hazardous healthcare system.
Challenges With Taking a Sustainable Approach to Nanomedicine
The path to sustainable, green nanomedicine is challenging due to the factors that affect the synthesis of plant-based nano-formulations. For example, varying hydrogen ion concentrations can influence the size and shape of the resulting nanomaterial, such as quantum dots or nanoparticles.
Temperature is another influential factor in the eco-friendly synthesis of nanomaterials with various structures and sizes. The crystalloid structure of the nanoparticles can be controlled by other external factors, such as chemical properties. Nanomaterial presence in industrial waste has also been identified as a cause for promoting antibiotic resistance in the environment.
Lastly, the application of green and sustainable nanomedicine as a therapeutic strategy for human diseases is constrained by their toxicity since the removal of nanomaterials from the body is yet unclear.
Generally, eco-friendly nanomaterials can also have the potential to be toxic to plants and beneficial to environmental microorganisms.
Thus, individual toxicological studies should be performed for each nano-preparation and its application conditions to determine the balance between the benefits and drawbacks of each preparation in terms of the benefit-risk ratio before making it accessible to everyone.
Future Outlook on Sustainable and Eco-Friendly Nanomedicine
There is an exciting future for sustainable and eco-friendly nanomedicine. Plants are a key player as they have broad applications on preparing nano-formulations such as nanocapsules in healthcare and consumer goods.
Sustainable nanomedicine can be easily scaled up while reducing the cost of healthcare to the present and future population. As long as eco-friendly practices keep the requirements of both patients and the environment in mind, sustainable nanomedicine will be able to reach its full potential.
Studies have shown that nanoparticles derived from plants do have medicinal value. Future research should focus on two areas in light of this application: reducing the environmental impact of plant-based nanoparticle synthesis and evaluating safety aspects such as toxicity towards human health and the environment.
References and Further Reading
Amiri, M. S., Mohammadzadeh, V., Yazdi, M. E. T., Barani, M., Rahdar, A., & Kyzas, G. Z. (2021). Plant-Based Gums and Mucilages Applications in Pharmacology and Nanomedicine: A Review. Molecules 2021, 26(6), p. 1770. https://doi.org/10.3390/MOLECULES26061770
Anand, U., Carpena, M., Kowalska-Góralska, M., Garcia-Perez, P., Sunita, K., Bontempi, E., Dey, A., Prieto, M. A., Proćków, J., & Simal-Gandara, J. (2022). Safer plant-based nanoparticles for combating antibiotic resistance in bacteria: A comprehensive review on its potential applications, recent advances, and future perspective. Science of The Total Environment, 821, p. 153472. https://doi.org/10.1016/J.SCITOTENV.2022.153472
Badhwar, R., Mangla, B., Neupane, Y. R., Khanna, K., & Popli, H. (2021). Quercetin loaded silver nanoparticles in hydrogel matrices for diabetic wound healing. Nanotechnology, 32(50), p. 505102. https://doi.org/10.1088/1361-6528/AC2536
Capolongo, S., Bottero, M. C., Lettieri, E., Buffoli, M., Bellagarda, A., Birocchi, M., Cavagliato, E., Dervishaj, A., di Noia, M., Gherardi, G., Gola, M., Mantua, F., Miljatovic, S., Nickolova, M., Rostagno, M., Speranza, S., & Volpatti, L. (2015). Healthcare sustainability challenge. Green Energy and Technology, 218, pp. 1–9. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-14036-0_1
Đorđević, S., Gonzalez, M. M., Conejos-Sánchez, I., Carreira, B., Pozzi, S., Acúrcio, R. C., Satchi-Fainaro, R., Florindo, H. F., & Vicent, M. J. (2022). Current hurdles to the translation of nanomedicines from bench to the clinic. Drug Delivery and Translational Research, 12(3), p. 500. https://doi.org/10.1007/S13346-021-01024-2
Hu, F., Sun, D. S., Wang, K. L., & Shang, D. Y. (2022). Nanomedicine of Plant Origin for the Treatment of Metabolic Disorders. Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology, 9, p. 1466. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fbioe.2021.811917/full
Nethi, S. K. (2021). Progress, challenges, and future opportunities for green nanomaterials as cancer nanomedicine. Biogenic Nanoparticles for Cancer Theranostics, pp. 249–264. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-821467-1.00003-3
The Importance of a Sustainable Healthcare System – Blog | Trivitron Healthcare Solutions | Medical Device Company. (n.d.). Retrieved September 4, 2022, Available at: https://www.trivitron.com/blog/the-importance-of-a-sustainable-healthcare-system/