Everybody who is familiar with nanotechnology has probably heard of the scenario where we'll have advanced nanotechnology that will help us diagnose diseases before the symptoms even hit. This way, it will be easy to treat and prevent our diseases, and a life in good health will be a guarantee.
Well, we're not exactly there yet, but Balaji Panchapakesan of the University of Delaware is working to make this fictice scenario a reality.
Researchers have created "nanobombs" that can produce nanoscale explosions to blow up cancer.
Balaji Panchapakesan of the University of Delaware has reported on the nanobombs in both NanoBiotechnology and Oncology Issues.
Panchapakesan says the nanobombs are in the early stages of development, but that the goal is to use them in medical applications.
"Make no mistake, we are focused on eradicating cancer," he says.
The bombs are created through the bundling of carbon nanotubes. Nanotubes dissipate heat generated by the light into surrounding air. In bundles, they can't dissipate the heat as quickly and the result is "an explosion on the nanoscale," says Panchapakesan.
"The nanobomb is very selective, very localized and minimally invasive," Panchapakesan said. "It might cause what I would call nanopain, like a pin prick."
The nanobombs could also offer advantages over other nanotech treatments as they are destroyed along with cancer cells. Macrophages then clear cell debris and exploded nanotubes, preventing nanoparticles from jamming up in the body.
This stuff is all for real these days.
How lucky are we to be alive right now... come the next decade, we'll look back on cancer as we now do on poor hygene and all consequences thereof.
See also this related Wired article on nano-sensors.
The field of nanotechnology has been long on hype and short on real products -- with the possible exception of stain-free pants. Likewise, the emergence of personalized medicine -- that utopian vision of detecting a disease at the doctor's office before symptoms have hit, and then treating it at the molecular level -- has long been foretold, but still hasn't arrived.And the nanotech revolution hasn't even started yet...
But a product that should appear next year could fulfill both visions. Northbrook, Illinois-based Nanosphere is preparing to launch a diagnostic system that uses nanoparticles to detect various proteins at a level of sensitivity never before seen.
"[Nanospheres] could really be the breakthrough technology that revolutionizes the medical field," he said. "Often, discoveries lead to technologies in search of a use. But in this case, the need for this type of technology is so intense that if it works as advertised, it will be hugely popular."
Here's an article that describes the professor and his nanobombs a little more elaborately.