Friday, March 10, 2006

Nanomedicine's brave new world

Alan H. Goldstein, the author of this article, is sounding a note of caution regarding our wholesale rush towards the smallest "silver bullet" we have seen yet. The writing style requires some perserverence, but it is a thought-provoking take on the situation. Technology | Nanomedicine's brave new world: "n just a few years, doctors will know everyone's genetic identity. This knowledge will be a blessing -- and a curse." .............

"How close are we to cancer-killing nanobots? The NIH Web site talks about nanoshells -- minuscule beads coated with gold. By manipulating the thickness of the layers constituting the nanoshells, scientists will design them to absorb specific wavelengths of light. The most useful nanoshells are those that absorb near-infrared light, which can easily penetrate into the body. Absorption of light by the nanoshells generates a lethal dose of heat. Researchers can already link nanoshells to antibodies that recognize cancer cells. In a "magic bullet" scenario, nanoshells will seek out their cancerous targets. Once they have docked, they will be zapped with near-infrared light. In laboratory cultures, the heat produced by light-absorbing nanoshells killed tumor cells while leaving neighboring cells intact. Experts believe quantum dots, nanopores and other devices may be available for clinical use in five to 15 years. Therapeutic agents are expected to be available within a similar time frame. Devices that integrate detection and therapy could arrive in the clinic in about 15 to 20 years, which means a cure for your Stage III melanoma and other forms of cancer could arrive within your lifetime."

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