Nanomedicine: Revolutionising Medical Science
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Nanomedicine: Revolutionising Medical Science

12:10 PM, 11th November 2019
Drug delivery via nanotechnology brings in that option of surpassing pain, promising targeted treatment.

Only a cancer patient understands the agony of the side effects of the treatment, and a diabetic undergoes the pains of injecting insulin all through the day. If only they had an option, they wouldn’t choose pain. Drug delivery via nanotechnology brings in that option of surpassing pain, promising targeted treatment.

By Debarati Das

Even at this day an age of technology, we are still trying to find answers to some of the most serious and complex illnesses like cancer, cardiovascular diseases, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, diabetes and different kinds of serious inflammatory or infectious diseases like HIV.

Till now, these diseases were considered life threatening, but now nanomedicine has brought in a hope for millions of patients for better, more efficient and affordable healthcare with the potential to bring a solution to many of these illnesses.

Nanotechnology is being effectively used in all fields of medicine from diagnosis to disease monitoring, surgery, chemotherapy to regenerative medicine. While some nanotechnology-based targeted drug delivery systems are already in the market, others are in clinical trials or under development. Apart from treating an illness with nanomedicine, it is also being used for diagnostics at the nanoscale for identifying a disease at the earliest possible stage.

“Nanotechnology ushered the field of medicine in to a new era. Miniaturisation, increased surface area, and the unique physiochemical properties in the nano dimension opened the door for new applications in healthcare. Nanoparticle technology continues to yield on its initial promise towards improving therapeutic index and avoiding toxicity by delivering molecules to target cells,” said Dr Anand Subramony, vice president of novel product technologies at Medlmmune, global biological arm of AstraZeneca.

Nanomedicine and nano delivery systems are rapidly developing where materials in the nanoscale range are used as diagnostic tools or to deliver therapeutic agents to specific targeted sites in a controlled manner. With its site-specific and target-oriented delivery of precise medicines, nanotechnology has multiple benefits in treating chronic human diseases. Nanotechnology is increasingly being used for disease prevention and remediation with the use of nanodimensional materials including nanorobots, nanosensors for diagnosis, delivery, and sensory purposes, and actuate materials in live cells.

Nano based drug delivery systems

Nanomaterials can be defined as a material with sizes ranged between 1 and 100 nm, which is used in the field of nanomedicine in the form of biosensors, microfluidics, drug delivery, and microarray tests to tissue engineering. Nanotechnology uses curative agents at the nanoscale level to develop nanomedicines. These nanosized particles have the advantage of moving more freely in the human body as compared to bigger materials and potentially cross natural barriers to access new sites of delivery and to interact with DNA or small proteins at different levels, in blood or within organs, tissues or cells.

“Nanotechnology offers the advantage of targeting certain tissues much better than micron sized particles. Because of their targeting ability you can reduce their side effects. For instance, in cancer, the patient can die of the side effects of the treatment than the cancer itself,” said Prof Subbu Venkatraman, school of material science & engineering, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.

There has been continuous developments in the field of nano based drug delivery systems, however there are still many challenges that need to be addressed. But consequently, nanomedicine can lead to the improvement and development of convenient administration routes, lower toxicity, fewer side effects, improved biodistribution and extended drug life cycle. The engineered drug delivery systems are targeted to a particular location for a controlled release of therapeutic agents.

“At present, most therapeutic drug delivery is carried out by oral, topical, intravenous or nasal routes. Novel drug delivery systems have been studied and developed over the past two decades to overcome several challenges encountered during delivery of drugs by traditional routes,” said Prof. Ashok Raichur, department of material engineering, Indian Institute of Science.

Future of nanomedicine and drug delivery system

The science of nanomedicine is one of the most fascinating areas of research with numerous researches happening constantly around the world. The aim however remains the same - to deliver accurate amount of drug to the affected cancer/tumour cells, without disturbing the physiology of the normal cells.

For instance, researchers at MIT have demonstrated increased levels of drugs delivery to tumours by using two types of nanoparticles. The first type of nanoparticle locates the cancer tumour and the second type of nanoparticle (carrying the therapeutic drugs) homes in on a signal generated by the first type of nanoparticle.

Researchers are also working on the best shape of nanoparticle to be use for delivering drugs to cancer tumours. One research group found that a disk shaped nanoparticle (nanodisk) will stick to the surface of a tumour longer than a spherical shaped nanoparticle while another set of researchers have found that rod shaped nanoparticles are more effective at delivering chemotherapy drugs to breast cancer cells than spherical nanoparticles.

Researchers at North Carolina State University are developing a method to deliver cardiac stem cells to damaged heart tissue. They attach nanovesicles that are attracted to an injury to the stem cells to increase the amount of stem cells delivered to an injured tissue.

Apart from cancer cells, nano technology is also being used in various other fields of medicine as well. For instance, to treat glaucoma, drugs are being attached to nanodiamonds which are embedded in contact lenses providing more consistent dosing than using eye drops.

To improve dental implants, researchers are adding nanotubes to the surface of the implant material which has the ability to deliver anti-inflammatory drugs directly to the area around the implant.

For diabetes, researchers have developed nanoparticles that release insulin when glucose levels rise to better control blood sugar levels for several days.

Researchers are also developing nanoparticles that can delivery drugs across the brain barrier to tackle neurologic disorders.

Cosmetics industry is using nanoparticles to fight skin aging. Skin creams are using proteins derived from stem cells to prevent aging of the skin. These proteins are encapsulated in liposome nanoparticles which merge with the membranes of skin cells to allow delivery of the proteins.

Nanoscale carriers for drug delivery

There are various types of nano particles that are being adopted to enhance for drug delivery. Some of them area:

Nanobots: Nanobots or nanomotors are advanced sub-micron sized, self-driven, biodegradable nanodevices made of bio-nano components, which carry cargo to the target sites.

Nanoghosts: Nanoghosts are a type of nanovesicles derived from naturally functionalized mammalian cell surface membranes of whole biological cells such as mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) that are devoid of cytoplasm and organelles. These naturally derived carriers overcome drug loading issues, evade tumor specific immune responses, provide greater nanoparticle stability and improve drug release profiles.

Nanoclews: Nanoclew or nanococoon is a DNA based biocompatible drug delivery system which self assembles to look like a yarn or cocoon or a clew like structure by rolling-circle amplification. The nano-cocoon has ligands on its surface that bind to receptors on the surface of cancer cells.

Nanoneedles: Nanoneedles are very small and make temporary perforations to biological membranes. Hence these needles, without disturbing biological functions of the body can deliver the drugs.

Nanoclusters: Metal nanoclusters are self-assembled nanoparticles made of polymers or small organic molecules crosslinked with plasmonic metals. They have gained importance in the field of drug delivery as well as biosensing and bioimaging.

Nanobubbles: Nanobubbles are gas-filled spherical nano-sized structures often stabilized by polymeric/lipid shells. These nanocarriers in combination with thermal, ultrasound, acoustic or magnetic sensitivities are used as efficient imaging and drug delivery agents in various therapeutic treatments.

Nano-terminators: Researchers at North Carolina State University developed biodegradable liquid metal nano-terminators that are drug loaded nanodroplets made of a liquid-phase eutectic gallium-indium core and a thiolated polymeric shell and thiolated hyaluronic acid to target cancer cells.These droplets when injected into the blood stream get absorbed into the tumors and release the drug by dissolving the liquid metal due to the presence of highly acidic tumour environment.

Way Forward

Nanomedicine is truly the next level of drugs, treatments and implantable devices bringing in a real breakthrough in healthcare. The new age technology is changing the way life threatening diseases are addressed making treatments more effective, and less painful for patients.

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