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5 Things You Should Know About Nanotechnology

        Tech | Everyday Tech

5
One Day, It Might Save Your Life
Pictured here are cancer cells from human connective tissue. Gold nanostars may pose one option for successfully fighting this chronic killer.
Pictured here are cancer cells from human connective tissue. Gold nanostars may pose one option for successfully fighting this chronic killer.
Image courtesy National Cancer Institute

Medicine might well be the most exciting area where nanotech can be put to use. For instance with cancer, many different treatments are being developed to attack tumors at the cellular level. Research has shown promising results from using gold nanoparticles against a variety of cancers. The particles are delivered to the tumors, and they heat the cells when shot with infrared laser [source: Bland].

Delivery is the biggest issue with these treatments, specifically in directing the nanoparticles to malignant cells while avoiding healthy ones. Once the delivery system is refined (no easy task!), these particles could create a series of new, noninvasive treatments that kill tumors without any surgical trauma.

One delivery solution may lie in stars, tiny, gold ones that scientists from Northwestern University have been developing. Their star-shaped particles are coated in a drug called a DNA aptamer (a DNA molecule that can stick to specific molecular targets). The nanostars are attracted to proteins on the cancer cells' exteriors. The proteins helpfully deliver the nano-sized invaders directly to the nucleus. Once attached to the nucleus, a shot of light from a laser releases the drug from the nanostars, and it starts working on the nucleus [source: ScienceDaily]. That won't be a pretty time to be a cancer cell.

Whatever the delivery mechanism, nanotechnology may allow doctors to stop brain cancer without physically entering the patient's skull or to attack lung cancer without opening someone's chest [source: Beck-Broichsitter].


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