How Nanotechnology Will Change Health Care As We Know It


By Dr. Joseph Mercola
     with Rachael Droege
   weblink.. How Nanotechnology Will Change Health Care As We Know It 9/6/03

Nanotechnology, which has been called "the manufacturing technology of the 21st century," refers to the study and design of systems at the scale of the atom, or the nanoscale. At the most basic level, the manufacturing is actually the rearranging of individual molecules and atoms into complex "molecular machines."

As you likely know, most disease begins at the cellular and molecular levels. However, the tools of modern medicine are too large and cumbersome to reach disease at this stage. With nanotechnology, we will be able to have computer-controlled machines that are much smaller than a human cell that can address disease at the cellular and molecular levels.

No one is sure how long these innovations will take--it could be years or decades--but at some point nanotechnology will likely allow us to remove obstructions in the circulatory system, kill cancer cells, repair organs, create artificial mitochondrion and view tissue samples with extraordinary detail.

Within a couple of years, scientists hope to use nanotechnology to detect the location of viruses in the body. The process would involve injecting magnetic nanoparticles into the bloodstream and would potentially allow more precise virus treatments to be developed.

Although it is largely still in the experimental stages, nanotechnology is growing fast. The federal government has allotted $847 million in 2004 for the National Nanotechnology Initiative, which represents a 9.5 percent increase from 2003.

However, some environmental groups say more caution is warranted for the new technology. For instance, little is known about how nanomaterials interact with living organisms, and nanomaterials are so small that they can easily be inhaled or absorbed through the skin. There are also some long-term ethical concerns over the potential development of "intelligent" nanobots.

Nanotechnology reaches far beyond medical applications and could potentially touch just about every aspect of today’s society. Scientists are currently exploring how to use nanotechnology to create wet-suit-like gear for soldiers that would be bulletproof, keep out chemical weapons and even increase jumping ability, and there are already stain-resistant pants on the market that were created using nanotechnology. The debate is just beginning to surface of whether it is best to move ahead and focus on the good that could come out of nanotech inventions, or slow down for fear of the life-changing and unforeseeable events that are sure to surface as this technology progresses.

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