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Nanotechnology and Health

  • 28 Dec 2020
  • 5 min read

Why in News

A team of scientists has created a nanomicelle that can be used for effective drug delivery to treat various cancers including breast, colon and lung cancer.

  • Nanotechnology or nanotech is the technology that involves the manipulation of matter on atomic, molecular, and supramolecular scales. This includes particles of a scale of 1 to 100 nanometers.

Key Points

  • Nanomicelles:
    • Formation:
      • Nanomicelles are formed when amphiphilic molecules assemble themselves to create a globular structure that is only around 5 to 100nm in diameter.
      • Different agents are used to create nanomicelles, however, they are usually made through surfactant molecules that may be non-ionic, ionic, and cationic detergents. Some nanomicelles may also be developed from a mixture of lipids and detergents.
    • Use in Drug Delivery:
      • They are amphiphilic, i.e. have a hydrophilic outer shell and a hydrophobic interior. This dual property makes them a perfect carrier for delivering drug molecules.
        • The hydrophilic shell makes the micelle water soluble that allows for intravenous delivery while the hydrophobic core carries a payload of drug for therapy.
      • Once injected intravenously, these nanomicelles can easily escape the circulation and enter the tumours where the blood vessels are found to be leaky. These leaky blood vessels are absent in the healthy organs.
  • Importance of Targeted Delivery:
    • The goal for cancer therapy is destroying the cancer cells without harming healthy cells of the body.
    • Chemotherapeutics approved for treatment of cancer are highly toxic with various side effects.
    • Thus the need arises for effective targeted drug delivery.
  • Other Uses of Nanotechnology in Health Care:
    • Nanotech detectors for heart attack.
    • Nanochips to check plaque in arteries.
    • Nanocarriers for eye surgery, chemotherapy etc.
    • Diabetic pads for regulating blood sugar levels.
    • Nanoparticles for drug delivery to the brain for therapeutic treatment of neurological disorders.
    • Nanosponges are polymer nanoparticles coated with a red blood cell membrane, and can be used for absorbing toxins and removing them from the bloodstream.
    • NanoFlares are used for detection of cancer cells in the bloodstream.
    • Nanopores are used in making DNA sequencing more efficient.
  • Recent Use of Nanotechnology:
  • Risks of Nanotechnology:
    • Since this field is still at its nascent stage, the likely risks are contentious.
    • The regulatory authorities like the US Environmental Protection Agency and the Health and Consumer Protection Directorate of the European Commission have started assessing the potential risks posed by the nanoparticles.
    • Nanotoxicology is the study of potential health risks of nanomaterials.
      • The human body can easily take up the nanomaterials as they are small in size. However, there is a need for detailed research on how it would behave inside an organism. The behaviour of nanoparticles based on their size, shape and surface reactivity must be thoroughly analysed before launching them into the market.
    • Nanopollution is the generic term that is used to describe the waste generated by the nanodevices or nanomaterials during the manufacturing process.

Governmental Initiatives to Promote Nanotechnology

  • Nano Science and Technology Mission (NSTM):
    • NSTM, launched in 2007, is an umbrella programme that aims to promote research and development in nanotechnology. The objectives include the promotion of research, infrastructure development to support the research, development of nanotechnology, human resources, and international collaborations.
  • Nano Science and Technology Initiative (NSTI):
    • It was set up by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) in 2001 to focus on issues related to infrastructure development, research and application programmes related to nanomaterials including drugs, drug delivery, gene targeting and DNA chips.


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