Nano-materials are developed to address the need for greater sensitivity in high throughput screening. Nano-particles dots, bars, dendrimers or colloids provide molecular labels that are highly stable, readily multiplexed and comparable in size to the molecular components of interest. Nano-particles exist in the same size domain as proteins making nano-materials suitable for biotagging or labelling.
However, in order to interact with a target, a biological or molecular coating or a layer acting as a bioinorganic interface is required to be attached to the nano-particle. The majority of commercial nano-particle applications in medicine are geared towards drug discovery and delivery.
Nano-particles are slowly replacing organic dyes in applications that require high photo-stability as well as multiplexing capabilities. Used as another form of molecular tagging, nano-bars are constructed from alternating layers of reflective metals which can be optically scanned as literal bar codes to differentiate molecular species.
Such systems offer advantages over conventional labelling in that there are a large number of different labels that can be constructed, multiplexing is possible, and the signal is long-lived. Still at an embryonic stage of development, nanotechnology has already enabled new formulations for drugs that are bringing clinical benefits to patients.
Similarly, the FDA-approved Abraxane has indications for the treatment of metastatic breast cancers. The anticipation that treatments for diseases such as cancer will be revolutionised with the advent of nanotechnology-based products such as nanoarrays and dendrimers is stimulating research in nano-medicine. The realisation is that the nanoscale has certain properties to solve important medical challenges and to cater to unmet medical needs is a factor driving research in nano-medicine Figure 1. Nanotechnology has the potential to prolong a disease-free lifespan.
In addition, for many chronic diseases and disorders, nano-medicine offers the potential and hope for a cure. Some of the major factors driving the expansion of nanotechnology- based solutions in drug discovery include: identification of novel chemical structures, ability to manipulate and track cells on the nanoscale due to advances in microscopy, increased government funds earmarked for nanotechnology, significant and growing interest from the venture capital community, and the rapid proliferation of nanotechnology start-up companies.
However, nanotechnology still has a long way to go. Nano-enabled tools, such as nano-arrays and nano-mass spectrometry, among others, will offer the largest opportunities along with nanoparticle solutions Qdots, Dendrimers, etc and nano-enabled drugs also showing significant growth. Traditionally, funding for emerging technologies has been difficult to secure.
However, a significant amount of funding has been allocated to nanotechnology, in particular nano-medicine. As nanotechnology has a broad interdisciplinary nature and has demonstrated its ability to advance various areas of healthcare including diagnostics, therapeutics and drug discovery, the attention has shifted to attract funding. Governments are making funding available for nanotechnology research, while the interest from the venture capital community continues to grow.
A key driver in the creation of start-up companies in this field would be investment from both public and private sources that will determine the success of this industry.
The demand for rapid drug discovery and for improved drug therapeutics has witnessed the formation of a number of companies working in the field of nanotechnology-based solutions. Although the industry comprises many start-ups since the integration of nano-medicine, companies that are in the best position to benefit from the move towards nanotechnology-based solutions in drug discovery are major microfluidics and LOC companies. Companies such as 3DM, American Pharmaceuticals, BioCrystal, CrystalPlex Corporation, C Sixty, Evident Technologies, NanBio Corporation and Nanosphere are also expected to experience further opportunities in the next decade because they offer new solutions for drug delivery and diseases prevention, as well as drug discovery.
Numerous challenges associated with nanotechnology relate to the market-driven needs within the industry. In order to move to practical applications in the commercial sector, nanotechnology will have to perform at high accuracy levels, achieving higher levels of throughput compared to current standard micro or macroscale, automated instruments.
It is true to say that any new innovative technology brings expectations and high hopes. Although, this could benefit companies in the deployment of additional funds and financial resources, a lack of significant progress, commercial bottlenecks or any other regulatory barriers could dash hopes, as well as credibility. Like a decade ago, when high throughput screening HTS was being touted as the answer to improving productivity in drug discovery, leading to the boom in Ultra HTS UHTS and high-speed automation, which has now begun to decline, having not lived up to its hype.
Furthermore, the majority of target customers which are predominantly expected to be pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies may be reluctant to spend any more on new systems, unless the advantages are significant and apparent. One of the more major aspects is the long-term stability of nanotechnology products.
In particular, nano-particles and nano-materials used for drug discovery applications can become a cause for concern if they degrade too rapidly or they remain in the body for prolong periods of time, and thus, need to meet optimum levels of stability. The ability of nano-materials to interact with biological organisms leads to the possibility that they may be harmful to humans and the environment. For instance, nano-particles composed of metals such as selenium, lead and cadmium can be toxic to organisms if these metals manage to leech from the particles.
Similarly, dendrimers have been shown to cause osmotic damage, activate the clotting and complement systems and even resulting in the removal of cell membranes. The impact of nano-particle interactions with the body are dependent on their size, chemical composition, surface structure, solubility, shape, and how the individual nano-particles amass together. Nano-particles may modify the way cells behave and potential routes of exposure include the gastrointestinal tract, skin and lungs. To ensure optimum safety and limit exposure, a strategy of key elements for toxicity screening should include the physical and chemical characterisation of nano-materials, tissue cellular assays and animal studies.
Among other barriers, such as technical issues, lack of standardisation, uncertainty, public awareness, resources, there are also communication and cultural barriers between nanotechnology research communities and the pharmaceutical industry that have hindered collaborations and delayed the progression of nanotechnology-based solutions in drug discovery. Nanotechnology has an extremely interdisciplinary character having a broad range of disciplines.
10 Ways Nanotechnology Impacts Our Lives
It is this wide range of disciplines which can even make discussions complicated and result in a definite lack of a common language. In order to overcome these barriers, the industry must increase its awareness and its potential to encourage dialogue between nanotechnology and other communities. The interests of nanotechnology merge from biologists, chemists, genome engineers, biotechnologists, and so on. By collaborating together extensively, the complexity of combining disciplines in nanotechnology would generate new businesses.
Committee on Implications of Emerging Micro- and Nanotechnologies
University of Michigan - Kopelman Laboratory. Research in the Glotzer group focuses on understanding why and how ordered structures emerge in otherwise disordered soft materials and nanoscale systems -- and how to design and control novel, functional structures from nanoscale building blocks using unconventional methods. Our tools for discovery include molecular, mesoscale, and multiscale computer simulations. University of Michigan - Lurie Nanofabrication Facility.
10 Ways Nanotechnology Impacts Our Lives - ASME
The LNF is available, on a fee basis, for use by research groups from government, industry and universities. Equipment and processes are available for research on silicon integrated circuits, MEMS, III-V compound devices, organic devices and nanoimprint technology. University of Michigan - Mechanosynthesis Group. The group's research deals with nanostructures and nanostructured materials. They seek to expand the science of how to synthesize these materials and engineer their fundamental properties; to create new technology to realize the related chemical, mechanical, and thermal assembly processes; and to pioneer applications which harness the unique properties of nanostructures at small and large scales.