Future of medicine is “too small”

This is one of my old articles, dated ” 25th September 2009″ which had appeared in a publication before. Then it was completely unaccepted and was called a pure work of fiction. I’m re-posting it here, without making any modification to the original article. Lest us assess how far have we come in the last 2 years.

In the 70s a Science Fiction movie showcased the voyaging of medical clutch inside the body of a diseased person to refurbish the damages occurred. The fantasy was accepted well and the movie became a hit. Little did the crew behind the movie think that this will become a possibility years later, under the sophisticated domain called the nanotechnology. Imagine a world where nanoscopic (smaller than microscopic) medical implants measuring 10000 times smaller than a pinhead, patrol our arteries, diagnosing ailments and fighting disease.

Nanotechnology is science and engineering at the atomic and molecular dimensions. Nanomaterials measure between 0.1 and 100 nanometers (nm) in size. A nanometer is one-billionth of a meter.That’s like comparing the size of a marble to the size of Earth. A pinhead can be approximated to one million nanometers in diameter. Most of the atoms are 0.1 to 0.2 nm wide, strands of DNA are around 2 nm wide, red blood cells are approximately 7000 nm in diameter, while human hairs are typically 80,000 nm across.

The brilliant innovation of building things at the atomic and molecular scale was conceived by a physicist Richard Feynman way back in the year 1959. Despite the mastermind’s foresight, the idea did not materialize in any form for more than 2 decades. Then the discovery of The Scanning Tunnel Microscope in 1981 by IBM scientists marked the beginning of the Nano-era. Today nanotechnology is the area that is extensively researched. Many countries including India are diverting a major part of the income to the nanotechnology research, awaiting a Nano-revolution.

Like the micro-technology that has enriched diagnostic and therapeutic sphere, the promise that nanotechnology offers to the field of medicine are astounding. The first boon is believed to befall in the field of medical diagnostics with in-vivo and in-vitro study of the disease at the nano-dimensions. A nano capsule that is programmed to detect abnormal cells, cell expression and metabolite in blood and tissue can tell us what is actually happening in the molecular level during the disease.

In the arena of therapeutics we are already witnessing researches in directing of cytotoxic drugs to tumors with tiny “smart bombs”; “nano-bullets” that seek-and-destroy tumor cells; etc. In the long run it is expected that we can develop nanomachies to undertake cellular surgeries. This is expected to upheave the trends in oncology therapeutics as nanotechnology aided resection of even micro-implants of a tumor cell would be both effortless and flawless.

The day is not far when Nanopowered drugs would be available in vials for therapeutic use. The nano drug delivery system would be controlled by an inbuilt Nanoprocessor that is programmed to deliver the drug at the desired site, rate and duration. Imagine a diabetic taking once a month shot of Nano-powered Insulin that would control his blood sugar for the next 30 days.

The immune machines to assist the natural leucocytes in fighting infection would be another break through. With their onboard sensors and processors, they will be able to identify host cells and foreign antigens. These immune machines would sensitize the natural leucocytes to combat against the invaders they have detected. Before being sent into the body on their search-and-destroy mission, they can be programmed with a set of characteristics that lets them clearly distinguish their targets from everything else. What more they can be programmed to be deactivated with a stable oral drug and can be excreted via the natural means.

Exploiting the knowledge that human cells respond to intrinsic and extrinsic stimulus for healing and regeneration, the scientists are researching on the nanomachine aided wound healing. They are postulated to work by enhancing the local growth factors, retaining the anatomic integrity and mechanically assisting the body to lay the healing tissues at appropriate sites.

The cell herding machines will be a solution for alopecia and hirsutism. They will be equipped to transfer hair follicles from your thigh to your head without damaging the skin. They will be expert cosmetologists as these machines can delay ageing and sometimes, even prevent ageing by its exclusive cell concentrating, rejuvenating and drug delivery systems.

In the years to come we might have to archive the terminology of Myocardial infarction. Nano machines working in the blood stream will be able to nibble off the atherosclerotic plaques as and when it appears. It may even be able to repair the artery wall by bringing in the right tissue to be laid at the vessel wall.

May be in the next few years to come, we might come across a new discipline of medicine called Nano Orthopedics. Natural alignment is always a tiring and tricky task in orthopedics. But with the aid of nanomachineries, it would become as easy as sticking two pieces of paper together. The nano mechanism would give adequate support, fasten re-growth and control the remodeling procedure.

Like every day has a night to follow, the nanotechnology also has its darker side. The few experimental studies on biological safety of nanoparticles are not promising till date. One of the important studies reveals that high concentrations of nanotubes could damage the lungs of rats and mice. Another study in 2004 hinted that nanoparticles can accumulate and cause brain damage in fish. But it’s not yet time to lose hope in nanotechnology. The better is yet to come. The scientists are constantly on their toes to correct the flaws and bring about an environment friendly nano revolution. Or shall we call it the NANOMEDICINE?


  1. The speed at which medical technology is developing is indeed amazing. Even medical research probably takes its inspiration from fiction? :)

  2. Thank you Zephyr.
    I think a lot of things in medicine evolved from fiction. Organ transplant, medical robotics, implants, endoscopy, gene therapy and now the nanomedicine are the few I can quote.

  3. you might be intrested in the theory os singularity.... read time magazines's article on singulatity! 2045 the world ends??