What you need to know:
- Despite being a relatively new innovation, it has found its way into different segments of medicine and holds much potential in the transformation of the delivery of health services.
- Though it was first introduced to the modern world by American physicist and Nobel Prize laureate Richard Feynman in 1959, the concept has largely remained underutilised thereafter.
- It would later get deployed into the medical field in the 1990s and has since made significant evolutions and strides in transforming healthcare.
How would you envision a technology that provides therapeutic and curative services to disorders that affect us, without necessarily being overly invasive to our being; like through extensive surgeries? Or a technology that would slow down human aging?
Well, nanotechnology, which involves the deployment of the unique properties of materials at a nanoscale to exclusively address target issues, could offer all these.
The technology has continued to revolutionise various industries across the globe, unlocking unlimited possibilities for the enhancement of the quality of human life.
Despite being a relatively new innovation, it has found its way into different segments of medicine and holds much potential in the transformation of the delivery of health services.
Though it was first introduced to the modern world by American physicist and Nobel Prize laureate Richard Feynman in 1959, the concept has largely remained underutilised thereafter.
It would later get deployed into the medical field in the 1990s and has since made significant evolutions and strides in transforming healthcare. It involves the application of nanoparticles in treating medical conditions as well as the use of manufactured nanorobots to correct health issues at the cellular level.
It is touted to be a game changer amid the ever-evolving disease mutations that humans currently contend with and emerging new maladies.
Aptly put, let’s call it nanomedicine because it is changing the way medical issues including diagnostics are done from the cell level, how diseases are treated, the way medication is delivered in the body and how a number of other medical conditions will be addressed in future.
In the medicine field, nanomaterials — and by extension nanoparticles — are perhaps the most extensively deployed constituents of nanomedicine. And these materials, which are within the nanoscale range, are deployed to serve as means of diagnostic tools or for the delivery of curative agents to specific targeted sites of organs within the human body and in a controlled manner.
For some insight into their nature, the structures of nanomaterials are smaller than 100 nm and their physicochemical properties are capable of affecting biological processes, which makes their deployment easy and effective in the medical field.
Nanomaterials can be synthesised from an array of materials but the most common of these are silicates, non-oxide ceramics and metal oxides.
In addition, these nanomaterials are easily soluble, can easily pass through cellular barriers, are reactive to the target issues and come in ideal sizes for ingestion in the human body.
Within the complexity of the human body, health issues happen at a nano scale and therefore effectively addressing these issues requires solutions implemented at a similar nano scale.
Health conditions and ailments including those that affect the central nervous system, autoimmune diseases, the human papillomavirus (HPV), hepatitis B virus (HBV), cancers, cardiovascular diseases, neurological disorders, diabetes, and potentially HIV/Aids would all be treated through nanomedicine, according to researchers in both the technology and the medical field.
Nanomedicine will be critical in the protection of the human body from any toxin, microorganism or infectious agents through the nanomedical immune system augmentation. And if deployed more clinically, it could stop aging, by helping the human skin replenish its cells.
Drug resistance, which is also becoming a key health hurdle, could also be addressed -albeit indirectly- through nanomedicine as the harmful disease-causing agents can be nanomechanically or thermally disabled by continuously patrolling the immune system guards that keep watch for these microorganisms.
Non-invasive surgery and cellular repairs could also be in the horizons through nanorobotics, which would make illnesses that require surgeries much easier to treat.
An instance would be the deployment of a nanomedical imaging instrument called Gastrointestinal Micro Scanning Device, which would help create 3D topographical imageries of the internal organs that require treatment.
With a good picture of what causes the illnesses, nanorobots could be deployed to treat the ailing parts of the body.
While there have previously been both moral and ethical reservations towards nanotechnology in the practice of medicine, the belief is that we can learn to see the good in this technology and embrace it in addressing numerous health conditions that continue to affect us.
Now that the technology came to Kenya in April 2021, let us have more nanotech centres, first for research about how to treat various medical conditions within our population and second , for future mass deployment to keep our country healthy.
Mr Ngila is the Africa Editor at NODO News and Africa Correspondent at Quartz. [email protected] Twitter: @Fauza4IR