Nanomedicine—the application of nanoparticles in the diagnosis and treatment of autoimmune diseases and cancers—is a relatively new field. Frost & Sullivan believes the following research will change the way healthcare providers diagnose, test and treat patients.
Nanomedicine—the application of nanoparticles in the diagnosis and treatment of autoimmune diseases and cancers—is a relatively new field. Developments include self-sustaining systems and nanoparticles for imaging and cancer targeting. Frost & Sullivan believes the following research will change the way healthcare providers diagnose, test and treat patients.
Self-Sustaining Biohybrid System
Advancements in nanotechnology have improved the mechanical and biological designs of hybrid biodevices. However, most commercial devices still require an additional power supply. Device scalability to a cost-effective micro/nanosize remains a challenge, presenting the need for reliable, self-sustainable biohybrid systems that can be incorporated into the physiological environment for diagnostic purposes.
Researchers from the City University of Hong Kong have accepted that challenge, coming up with a self-sustaining biohybrid system that collects energy from cardiac muscle tissue. Their device, the Cell Generator, is based on the premise of piezoelectricity. To create energy, a 3-D-engineered network of piezoelectric cantilevers made up of cardiac cells uses vibrations from contracting cardiac muscle cells. When the muscle cells contract, cantilevers are depressed and convert that kinetic energy into electricity.
A thin layer of polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) coats the cantilever surface to improve biocompatibility while insulating the device from excess electricity. Theoretically, the PDMS also facilitates biocompatibility with different biological cells and tissues. The system design permits the conversion of small piezoelectric signals to applicable outputs, making it self-sustaining and energy efficient. The materials make microscalability possible, allowing for diverse application in diagnostic and therapeutic tools for neurological diseases such as epilepsy, and in cochlear implants, pacemakers and other microbiorobotic devices with low power consumption.
Although the device has not been proven in vivo, it appears promising.
Light-Emitting Particles for Biological Imaging
Disadvantages of whole-body diagnostic imaging tools such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and ultrasound include low sensitivity, acquisition speed and spatial resolution. Other imaging techniques, including fluorescence, are able to capture images with high sensitivity, but are only effective for single cells (sorry married cells, no high-resolution photos for you). A simple, non-invasive, sensitive technique with in vivo applicability is an unmet need.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology recently developed shortwave infrared-emitting, iridium arsenide-based quantum dots for diverse functional imaging applications. Injecting the particles into a living organism and applying a photo wavelength of 1000 to 2000 nm creates a high-resolution image of the organism’s internal body structures.
This technique makes it possible to image physiologic processes that are otherwise too fast to be detected by common imaging methods. The emitted light frequency can be accurately tuned by controlling the composition and size of the particles, enabling vivid images and videos to be captured—even during motion. The technique is highly sensitive and can even distinguish between different blood cells. It is promising for therapeutic purposes and general research but not yet applicable on the human body. The researchers are working on a version that can be used on humans.
Molecular Magnet-Enabled Nanoparticles to Target Cancer
For human body tissue imaging with externally applied magnetic fields, it is necessary to use adequate magnetic particles. There is a pressing need for a cancer diagnostic device that is stable, easy to manufacture and free of side effects.
A research team from Yokohama City University in Japan has developed magnetic metal- complex-conducting copolymer core-shell nanoassemblies for single-drug anticancer platforms.
By adopting a one-step self-assembly technique employing smart conducting polymers, the team established that it is possible for compact particles to address the challenge of insolubility in water, enabling the delivery of the anticancer pharmaceuticals in the body. The composite nanomaterial consists of two polymers—polypyrroles and polycaprolactones—that are biodegradable and not cytotoxic. In contrast to iron salen, the core-shell has no polymer addition and the metal-complex has enhanced magnetism. This has resulted in more efficient magnetic drug delivery, higher contrast in MRI, augmented hyperthermal effect and restrained release at acidic pH conditions.
The Road Ahead
Demand for cancer and autoimmune disease therapeutics is increasing because today’s widely used techniques are not 100% effective.
Frost & Sullivan believes that technologies for the diagnosis and treatment of illnesses must be cost effective and accurate, with fast results that ensure early detection of diseases. The key challenges are the unknown, potentially harmful side effects. The materials and diagnostic techniques have mostly only been proven in a lab setting and have not yet been tested in real time or been subject to clinical trials.
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