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Nano . . . what?  Yes, Nanotechnology

Nanotechnology is all about scale—small, small, small scale—the size of a nanometer.  A nanometer is a billionth of a meter, about 1/80,000 the width of a human hair.  Wow!  Materials on a 'nano' scale have been used for a long time, even if no one knew what they were.  The Romans used them to make glasses.  During Renaissance times the nano scale was used to make ceramics.  But an in-depth understanding of nanotechnology and ways to use it is very new indeed.  Today scientists are able to manipulate matter on an atomic, subatomic and molecular scale that's amazing.
cancer vaccine nanomolecule
And nanotechnology in medicine is absolutely breathtaking. Already it's the basis for more effective ways to deliver drugs and in early stage development for use as scaffolding in nerve regeneration research.  Nanomedicine holds incredible promise in detecting, diagnosing and treating various kinds of cancer, as well as other diseases.  And 'active' nanotechnology structures are allowing for the creation of 'smart drugs' that cause fewer side effects and greater efficacy than traditional treatments.  [A binary nanoparticle targeting a cancer cell is shown at right.  Michigan Nanotechnology Institute for Medicine and Biological Sciences.]

Designer nanomolecules offer almost unlimited possibilities for made-to-order applications for treating diseases.  Listen to this.  DARPA, the US defense-related research agency best known for its key role in the invention of the Internet (no folks, it wasn't Al Gore), has set out a new goal related to nanotechnology.  And that's to replace antibiotics with nanomolecules that snuff out bacteria by targeting individual cells in the human body.  It's true the nanomolecular approach to antibiotics isn't a new concept and has a less than stellar history.  But recent advances in nanotherapeutics are helping researchers overcome past obstacles to develop a revolutionary platform to combat evolving biologic threats.  That's one reason Claire, Don, and Roscoe are so interested in how Dr. Black used nanomolecules to coat his bioengineered Tivaz TB.

Let's not forget about vaccines.  There's a critical need for delivery vehicles that can stimulate more than one kind of immunity.  Claire knows all about this, if you remember.  That's why the use of nanomedicine to develop novel vaccines for viral and parasitic infections such as hepatitis, HIV, malaria, cancer, etc. is an area of intensive investigation. Fingers crossed there's success before something like Tivaz TB actually becomes a reality!

Here are a few references on nanotechnology.  Warning—some of these are not for the faint of heart, but if you're still interested . . .