While nanotechnology is making unbelievable things like invisibility cloaks a reality, it will also improve our health. By manipulating materials at the same scale as DNA, antibodies, and biomarkers, researchers are approaching disease detection and treatment in new ways.
The video below on nanotechnology and your health was made by Western Carolina University student animator Emily Giarette and introduces some of the ways nanotechnology will change medicine. According to her professor, Mary Anna LaFratta, this STEAM project challenged her students to learn about nanotechnology, an unfamiliar subject, and “to wrap their imaginations around something that cannot be seen by the human eye.” For Emily, the toughest part to visualize was “when it says ‘encourages new cells to grow’ it seemed super simple and I understood it, I just didn’t know how to show it so that others would understand. There were almost some nanoparticles dressed up as cheerleaders.”
Watch “How Will Nanotechnology Improve your Health?”
Right now there are nanotechnology-enabled treatments available for cancer. Nanoparticles can carry cancer fighting drugs inside a person’s body and home in on the tumor, therefore shielding healthy cells from the drug. As a result, doctors can use less chemotherapy cutting down on harmful side effects.
Cells in your body are much bigger than a nanometer. Red blood cells, some of the smallest cells we have, are about 7,000 nanometers in diameter. But when a person has a disease or cancer, nanoscale chemicals called biomarkers are released from the unhealthy cells. Using nanotechnology, scientists are creating much more sensitive methods to detect these early signs of disease sooner. One day, doctors may be able to test one drop of your blood and let you know if you’re sick before you can even tell.
If cells are so much bigger than the nanoscale, how are scientists using nanotechnology to encourage damaged ones to regrow? Turns out the environments that cells thrive in have nanoscale structures. Bioengineers are working on copying the support materials, the scaffolding, which our own bodies use to grow tissue like cartilage and even nerve cells in order to help the body make more if there is damage.
For more information on nanotechnology, visit nano.gov and stay tuned for the final student animation. “How Can Nanotechnology Save Energy?” shows how lighter and stronger nanotechnology-enabled materials will help conserve energy. Click here to see the first video in the series “What Can Nanotechnology Do For You?”
Discover more Science Matters videos on Nanotechnology:
- Hot Jobs: Biomechanical Engineering a Nano-tattoo
- Hot Jobs: Nanotechnology
- Explore the Surprising Power of Science
Article by: Dr. Quinn Spadola, AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellow in the National Nanotechnology Coordination Office