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Nanotechnology and its Application in Medicine - What are Nanoparticles?

BY: Nidhi Uppangala | Category: Healthcare | Submitted: 2010-05-20 22:32:11
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Article Summary: "Nanotechnology is usage of nanoparticles artificially prepared by man for medical or industrial applications. Nanoparticles can also be used as semiconductors or imaging agents..."

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Nanotechnology is usage of nanoparticles artificially prepared by man for medical or industrial applications. In nanosize physical properties such as colloidal properties, solubility, catalytic property of a known element and materials change. These changes in physical properties are used in some of the biotechnology areas like drug delivery and bioremediation. Nanoparticles can also be used as semiconductors or imaging agents.


Nanoparticles made up of inert materials can also be used as catalysts. The nano sized particles have the ability to penetrate into the cell and interact with cellular molecules. Nanoparticles made up of Carbon-based skeletal-type structures like fullerenes or liposome made up of lipid are already used in drug delivery systems and in the cosmetic industry.

Usually lipid based nanoparticles are used in cosmetics, creams, stain-resistant clothing because of their solubility and suspension properties. Carbon based nanoparticles such as chitosan are used as oral protein delivery system, and polymer based nanoparticles are under study for insulin delivery.

Nanoparticles made up of metals or inorganic materials are also used to enhance the MRI and ultrasound results of in vivo imaging. Nanoshells made up of inert materials like gold are used to fight soft tissue tumours because of their ability to absorb radiation at a particular wavelength.
Single stranded DNA can also be detected using positively charged silver nanoparticles.

Nanoparticles loaded with medicine can also be linked with particular antigen so that these nanoparticles are delivered to the particular cell type. This technique is used to treat cancer. Nanoparticles acting as drug delivery system and also imaging agent are used to treat metastatic cancer as this will help doctors in targeting the cancer cell and also they can analyze the effects of the treatment of cancer.

Nanoparticles as drug delivery system along with siRNA treatment were effective in treating cancer. Nanoparticles provide protection to Small interfering RNA until it reaches the target site or tissue. At present this technology is under clinical trial.

Construction of nanoparticles uses the phenomenon known as molecular self-assembly based on hydrogen bonding, van der Waals force and hydrophobic force to construct specific structured nanoparticles. Watson-Crick DNA base pairing is used to construct nucleic acid based nanoparticles.

Another application of molecular self-assembly is used to introduce pore protein into nanoparticles. The opening and closing of these pores allow the release of drug in certain physiological conditions. For example this type of nanoparticles can be used as insulin delivery system. Insulin is delivered when blood sugar level goes down.


The advantages of using nanoparticles are the side effects of radiation therapy or chemotherapy are avoided, as nanoparticles are specific to the cancer cell so the neighbouring healthy cells are not being damaged. Nanoparticles reduce the toxic side effect of the treatment. Nanoparticle delivery system improves the bioavailability of the drug by targeting the particular site of action. Also reduce the required quantity of medicine and also the cost of the therapy will be reduced.

The National Cancer Institute funded research is being conducted to use these nanoparticles in the fields like diagnostics, devices, biosensors, microfluidics and therapeutics.

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