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April 23, 2007

Nanotechnology offers hope for treating spinal cord injuries, diabetes, and Parkinson's disease

This reviews the Nanofrontiers : visions for the Future of Nanotechnology published by the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies. There is 51 page pdf. It is mostly refinement of current nanotechnology with some discussion of more advanced nanotechnolology. The most interesting area is the discussion of medical impacts of near term nanotechnology. This is a fairly conservative report with a view that enhancement to transhumanism would be a troubling thing.

Dr. Samuel I. Stupp, director of the Institute of BioNanotechnology in Medicine at Northwestern University, is using self-assembling nanostructures to accelerate healing and regeneration in mice In a dramatic demonstration of what nanotechnology might achieve in regenerative medicine, paralyzed lab mice with spinal cord injuries have regained the ability to walk using their hind limbs six weeks after a simple injection of a purpose-designed nanomaterial. Stupp and his coworkers designed molecules with the capacity to self-assemble into nanofibers once injected into the body with a syringe. When the nanofibers form they can be immobilized in an area of tissue where it is necessary to activate some biological process, for example saving damaged cells or regenerating needed differentiated cells from stem cells.
This same work also has implications for Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, both diseases in which key brain cells stop working properly.

There is a webcast and a podcast

There is a 51 page pdf with a review of this and other nanotechnology work This 51 page pdf is interesting and has some good contributors like Fraser Stoddard, Phaedon Avouris(IBM), Jamse Heath, James Tour and almost fifty others.

Some of the contributors to the nanotechnology impact on medicine section were: John Ryan, Director, Bionanotechnology Interdisciplinary Research Centre, Oxford University, Leroy Hood, biologist, Institute for Systems Biology, Samuel Stupp, chemist, Northwestern University, Elias Zerhouni, Director, National Institutes of Health, Davis Baird, philosopher, University of South Carolina Nanocenter.

The pdf, Nanofrontiers : visions for the Future of Nanotechnology, has on pages 29- 36, a discussion of impacts on medicine.
Predictive medicine: more detailed and frequent analysis of biomarkers (200+ disease biomarkers). This would identify disease at early stages.
Preemptive medicine: This is a focus on early intervention, but also requires early diagnosis. Help doctors detect treatable diseases early and stop them at the earliest stage.
Personalized medicine: Develop real-time, sensitive monitoring of drug treatment.
Participatory (Regenerative) medicine: the above regeneration of nerve tissue using nanoscaffolds is an example. The pdf discusses the issue of transhuman potential and inequality as a potentially negative thing.

On page 21, 22: they discuss bottom up building. (molecular nanotechnology)
they say it will take decades of work if it proves possible.

On pages 24-28: they discuss using nanotechnology to solve energy problems. They briefly discuss using nanotechnology for more efficient solar cells, batteries, energy transmission, and more efficient systems, processses and devices.

On pages 37-41 they discuss using nanotechnology for water treatment.

Significant impacts for energy and water applications are possible with refinement of our current form of nanotechnology and will compete with non-nano technologies.

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