Disrupted Drugs – nanomedicine technology to revolutionise disease treatment

It was the stuff of pure science fiction when, in 1966, Raquel Welch starred in science fiction film called Fantastic Voyage where a submarine called Proteus was miniaturised, complete with its crew of doctors, and injected into a man’s bloodstream to remove a clot in his brain.

More than 40 years on, the concept of a microscopic ‘submarine’ that can swim through narrow blood vessels and help save a patient’s life has moved closer to reality. Over the last decade, a revolution in nano-medicine has spurred the development of drugs intended to act like our own cellular system, as well as tiny robots that may help doctors diagnose and treat diseases.

Nano Technology Kills Cancer Cells
Nano Technology Kills Cancer Cells

One such innovation is a cancer drug that consists of particles 100 nanometers long. That means you could fit 1,000 of them across the diameter of a human hair! The particles are coated with water-like molecules that allow them to travel inside the body without being detected by the immune system. Their surfaces contain molecules that provide them with a “GPS” to seek out abnormal cancer cells. Once they find a cancer cell, the particles stick, and like a Trojan horse, the cancer cells take them inside where they can release medicine that’s toxic to the cancerous cell. This could mean the end of chemo-therapy which is highly toxic to the human body and is the equivalent of carpet bombing.

Israel’s Bar‐Ilan Institute for Nanotechnology and Advanced Materials is developing early DNA nano‐machines to carry and deliver precious molecular cargo—a drug, protein, enzyme, or nano‐molecule, for instance. These DNA nano‐machines remain shut tight until a special circumstance, like a collision with a cancer cell, induces them to open and release their cargo. [page 133 of iDisrupted]

Google’s head of life sciences, this week, revealed that the tech giant’s secretive Google[x] lab has been working on a wearable device that couples with nanotechnology to detect disease within the body. Tiny particles coated “magnetised” with antibodies can catch disease in its nascent stages. The tiny particles are essentially programmed to spread throughout the body via a pill and then latch on to the abnormal cells. The wearable device then “calls” the nanoparticles back to ask them what’s going on with the body and to find out if the person who swallowed the pill has cancer or other diseases.

Technology and medical science advances are disrupting healthcare as we know it. Our new book, iDisrupted, to be released on Nov 13, will give greater insight in the breadth and depth of technology disruption in healthcare and other aspects of our lives. iDisrupted is available to pre-order on Amazon now.

Julien de Salaberry