Nanoparticle for drug deliveryAn artist's rendering of BIND-014, a nanoscale system that encapsulates anti-cancer drugs while targeting specific organs. (Credit: MIT)

Much of biology takes place at the molecular level, where nanoscience is making important contributions to medicine. Natural and synthetic nanomaterials are increasingly used to encapsulate drugs. This prevents the drugs from interacting with the body and causing toxic reactions. Researchers decorate the surfaces of these nanomaterials with molecules that target the cells of specific organs or diseases and that 'convince' those cells to ingest the encapsulated medicines. Similar encapsulants enable physicians to deliver molecules that modify or replace DNA, disabling or fixing genes that cause genetic diseases, while at the same time isolating their genetic payload so it does not trigger the body’s immune system. Nanomaterials have also given rise to entirely new types of therapy. Bacterial colonies, for example, can cause severe infections in hospital patients and resist antibiotics more effectively than individual microbes. Injecting iron oxide nanoparticles into a colony and heating them with a magnetic field disperses the colony and makes its bacteria more vulnerable to antibiotics. Researchers are also investigating how to create nanostructures that mimic the natural three-dimensional scaffolds used by the body to grow tissues and organs so we can grow replacement body parts. Another major area of interest involves creating nanostructured molecules that show a strong reaction to the earliest signs of disease.

The Chemistry of Nature, Reimagined

MOFs and COFs
Jan 05, 2017

Nature uses complex molecules to perform miraculous feats, such as turning sunlight into sugars. A new class of crystals is making that kind of complexity accessible to humans. Three nanoscientists—Omar Yaghi, Joseph Hupp and Thomas Bein—discuss their truly transformational way of doing chemistry.

Fighting Cancer with Nanoparticle Medicines ― Mark E. Davis

Mar 07, 2012

Why is there excitement about nanoparticle medicine (nanomedicines) for fighting cancer? In this video, Dr. Mark E. Davis presents the current understandings of why these engineered, nanosized medicines may provide game-changing ways to treat cancer.

Fighting Cancer with Nanotechnology

Feb 09, 2012

Will advances in nanotechnology be a game changer for the treatment and diagnosis of cancer? Four pioneers in the field — Drs. Anna Barker, Mark E. Davis, James Heath and Michael Phelps — discuss where things stand and what the future holds.

Frontiers in Nanoscience

The molecular abacus. (Courtesy of Jim Gimzewski, University of California at Los Angeles)
Jun 25, 2007

In the 21st century, scientists will not only use molecules as building blocks for creating vital new technologies, but possibly as the basis for creating synthetic life.

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