Nanoparticles are (in simple terms) small objects that behave as a unit to have common properties and to perform specific jobs.They are tiny complex particles on the scale of one billionth of a meter—mere fractions of the width of a human hair.
These particles are molecular-sized entities that can be made from almost any material: metals, plastics and a multitude of hybrid materials. The most common at present are made of silicon, and 3D printing technology is advancing this technology faster than ever.
Because they are approximately the size of a biological molecule, they offer great potential for use in the human body to cure diseases, mainly because of their ability to transport substances on their surfaces or within their structures (think sponge-like configurations) into the body.
When used for medical purposes, they enter the body most often via intravenous injections. But advanced nanos that can be administered via an oral capsule and nanoemulsions that could be used for aerosolized nasal delivery are being developed.
Recently, I came across an interesting article about new research into using nanotechnology to prevent the paralysis resulting from severe spinal cord injuries.
When spinal cord injuries occur, often it’s the body’s own immune system that causes the inflammation and subsequent paralysis by squeezing and killing nerve cells. Inflammation prevents communication between neurons and produces scars that prevent nerve cells from regenerating. Thus, there is a cascade paralysis effect to areas below the injury site.
Nanoparticles, in this case, are used to bind with immune cells to prevent them from racing to the spinal injury and causing inflammation that may create a paralysis. These nanoparticles, in essence, render inflammation-causing immune cells useless and protect the spinal cord from inflammation. This allows nerve tissue to regenerate.
To this date, the process has been successful with mice and this area of research is also targeting multiple sclerosis.
As with all technological advances, the amazing cures and enhanced qualities of life that are on the forefront of nanoparticle development could have an alternate dark side. As we’re seen with powerful herbal and pharmaceutical remedies, misuse can result in lethal outcomes.
I can already imagine what poisons and toxins could be delivered into the body by nanos, and what other lethal consequences could be achieved by ill-used nanoparticles entering the body by injection, oral or nasal spray applications.
Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!