June 3rd, 2014

Technology, and nanotechnology especially, is rapidly changing the medical field. The combination of nanotechnology with modern wireless technology is not only allowing medical professionals to attack maladies with a greater level of precision than ever before — it could completely change day-to-day operations in hospitals.

Some of the most astounding achievements of the past 15 years have been made in the laboratories of colleges and universities. For over a decade now, New York University chemists have been developing nanoscale mechanisms from DNA particles, which are effectively nanoscale robots which literally walk on two microscopic legs. The goal is to use nanobots to repair molecular damages to the human body. Digital technology comes into play here, also. The nanobots are equipped with tiny cameras and can be ingested by the patient in a small, pill-like capsule. They save hospitals time and money, because they can carry out intricate tasks, safely and swiftly. In many cases, they can fix problems which would otherwise require invasive surgeries. Once the bot is inside the patient, it should, ideally speaking, be able to do everything from taking biopsies to repairing cells.

In some instances though, the objective isn’t to repair cells, but to destroy them, and nanobots are also useful towards that end. Harvard Medical School has been developing nanobots which are more or less shaped like barrels, and are capable of transporting molecules throughout the body which instigate “cell suicide” in both lymphoma and leukemia cells.

But beyond treating medical conditions, nanotechnology may also prove to have useful diagnostic applications.Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed their own unique method of monitoring levels of nitric oxide in a patient’s blood that uses a specially designed gel containing carbon nanotubes. This is particularly useful for medical practitioners, as the presence of nitric oxide in the blood speaks to the severity of an inflammation. In test mice, the gel worked for up to year.

In addition to everything that’s been achieved by academic research institutions, there are a number of companies in the private sector who are also developing medical applications for nanotechnology. The Arrowhead Research Company, for instance, is using nanotechnology to engineer RNAi therapeutic substances which effectively quell the production of harmful genes. In clinical trials, it’s been used to treat everything from macular degeneration to hepatitis. It’s also being used to halt the development of cancerous tumors. Another company to look out for is the Texas based Medical Nanotechnologies, who have been developing their own unique method of using nanoparticles which target cancerous cells with the aid of near-infrared light (NIR). NIR heats the nanoparticles, which then kill tumors via irradiation.

Healthcare and technology are becoming inextricably linked. Knowledge of both nanotech devices, and the complex digital systems used to control them, may soon be a prerequisite for anyone wishing to enter into the medical field. In the near future, medical practitioners might need to be more information technology (IT) savvy . Some experts have even predicted that the healthcare system will eventually , with new systems built entirely around digital technology. Health IT is now a thriving industry, with major growth forecast by Research and Market’s North American Healthcare IT Market Report 2013-2017. It is estimated that, if current trends persist, health IT will be a $31.3 billion dollar industry by 2017. That’s an annual growth rate of 7.4%. To keep pace with demand, more and more resources are becoming available to train and recruit health IT specialists. Tim Cannon, a Vice President also believes that the health IT industry will continue to grow in the near future. “Recent nanotechnology advances have created new job opportunities in the health IT industry that blend science, engineering and technology skills,” Cannon said. “Some studies have shown as many as 6 million new jobs will be created in nanotechnology by 2020 and a significant amount of those will be in healthcare.”

Just as nanotech is allowing for a much higher degree of exactitude with respect to identifying and treating problems at an atomic level, digital and wireless technology is enabling healthcare professionals new and discrete methods for obtaining and filing crucial information.


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