By Maureen Aylward
We’ve covered nanotechnology from several angles in the Zintro blog, and this time we are looking at the application of nanotechnology in nanomedicine in medical diagnostics. Here’s what our Zintro experts have to say about the promise and the current state of the industry.
Gregory Darnell, a solutions analyst, says thinks that medical diagnostics have been challenged for many years with a struggle for increased sensitive, greater accuracy, and creating assays and instrumentation that is on the scale of the individual cell. “Nanomedicine/nanotechnology are providing new and innovative ways to accomplish these goals as device fabrication, self-assembling molecular methodologies, new bioactive and conductive materials, and well-studied, highly-specific biological interactions that are being exploited on the nanometer scales,” says Darnell. “Whether it is encapsulating a drug to target a specific body injury or cell or being able to sense individual biological molecules in severely small concentration, nanomedicine and nanotechnology are allowing medical diagnostics to achieve goals never thought possible by taking them down to the size scale that was once unattainable.”
Vivek Patel, a market researcher in life sciences, says the field of nanomedicine and nanotechnology is bringing about a rapid revolution in medical diagnostics that offers exciting possibilities in imaging, diagnosis, and treatment of human cancers. “Both can be used in vitro and vivo diagnostics as molecular imaging, implantable devices, nanobiopsy sensors, and many more,” says Patel. “Molecular imaging offers an ideal solution to cure cancers by allowing reliable characterization of biological processes occurring at the cellular and sub-cellular levels in organisms.” Patel explains that by exploiting specific molecular probes or contrast agents, this powerful technique can detect and characterize early stages of the disease and provides a rapid method for evaluating treatment.
“Currently, nanomedicine and nanotechnology use molecular imaging modalities, including X-ray, computed tomography (CT), ultrasound, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), positron emission tomography (PET), single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT), and optical imaging (bioluminescence and fluorescence),” says Patel. MRI and CT are the leading imaging technologies used by healthcare practitioners for cancer detection.
“The use of nanomedicine and nanotechnology could revolutionize not only oncology, but also the entire discipline of medicine in the near future,” says Patel. He cites the followings examples of nanomedicine and nanotechnology-enabled products:
- Nanosphere Inc.: A ten-year old healthcare company that launched gold nanoparticles Verigene® as a contrast agent for the diagnostic imaging modality.
- Nanobiotix: a French nanomedicine company that recently developed nanoXray™ cancer imaging technology, which is made of a nanocrystal particle (hafnium oxide) surrounded by a thin amorphous coating to improve the efficiency of radiation therapy in the treatment of cancer.
- Phillips Healthcare is developing innovative imaging modalities like the magnetic particle imaging (MPI) method. An MPI system spatially and quantitatively detects magnetic properties of iron oxide nanoparticles (tracer) that are injected into the bloodstream in order to produce three-dimensional images of physiological processes.
- In March 2005, AMAG Pharmaceuticals Inc. received Food and Drug Administration approval for Combidex® iron oxide nanoparticles for use as a contrast agent in conjunction with magnetic resonance imaging to detect cancer in lymph nodes, but it is yet to be commercialized.
- Starpharma Holdings Limited is developing a contrast agent for MRI imaging in partnership with an Australia-based Baker IDI health and medical research institute.
- In 2007, Siemens Medical Solutions Inc., USA and Xintek Inc., formed a joint venture company XinRay Systems to develop a new multi-pixel X-ray source technology for a broad range of diagnostic cancer imaging applications. In 2010, clinical trials were scheduled. The new type of X-ray computed tomography scanner uses carbon nanotubes as the x-ray source, thereby enabling the detection of small tumors and increases precision and speed of CT scanning.
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