Nanotechnology on its own is revolution and deliberate changes are brought onto material at their most cellular and molecular levels with the intent of understanding their properties at those levels. At times it may differ dramatically from that in their macro level. It involves understanding, designing and applying such designs and devices at very minute levels so as to bring huge changes when seen at macro levels.
This study of the properties at the minutest levels and subsequent attempts to bring changes to the structures has opened up unthinkable avenues of application designed to bring relief to mankind in varied ways. Having proved itself in various industries and segments, nanotechnology is set to play its part in the 21st century in the field of medicines and the existing health structure.
The essential push to Nanotechnology in itself in the Indian context came about with the setting up of the Nanoscience and Technology Mission (NSTM) between the years 2002 and 2007 under the Department of Science and Technology (DST) with an initial fund allocation of INR Sixty crores.
The next plan period i.e., the 11th between 2007 and 2012 gave it the required boost with another initiative called the ‘Mission Nano’ with a sizable budgetary allocation of INR Thousand crores. Mission Nano came about to bring in the much-needed ecosystem of innovation by fostering research, putting in place centres of excellence, R & D centres, Public-Private Partnerships and collaboration across the world besides educating and training professionals.
And the result is for the world to see! Mission Nano has made India one among the top five nations when it comes to scientific publications in the field with research papers in excess of 5000 and close to a thousand PHDs who have done work in fields as far removed as nano gel-based eye drops, water filtration using pesticide-removal systems besides removing of arsenic and fluoride, silver-based nano textile coating which remains antimicrobial to name some!
Nanotechnology in Drug Delivery System
Nanoparticles deliver drugs, heat, light and other essentials to certain cells or group of cells including some inflicted by cancer where the nanoparticles are designed to attract and align with specific types of cells thus allowing pointed treatment only of particular cells or group of cells. In the case of cancer, it helps greatly by concentrating action only on specific cells while leaving the rest intact.
Nanotechnology in Antibacterial Treatments
The University of Houston in the US is instrumental at developing a system to kill bacteria with gold nanoparticles and infrared light which may go a long way in improving cleaning of hospital equipment and instruments. Another research in the US aims at the use of quantum dots to finish resistant infections.
Nanotechnology in Cell Repair
Mimicking natural healing process in humans, nanobots have been developed and programmed to repair & rejuvenate identified diseased cells while functioning quite like Human antibodies in their natural environment.
Nanotechnology in Diagnostics
Research at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Worcester, Massachusetts have made it possible to detect cancer cells in the blood streams directly by attaching antibodies to carbon nanotubes which were present in the blood streams. These provide sone of the most simples forms of tests to provide quick and early detection of cancers in the bloodstream.
Something similar has been tried with the kidneys which secrete a particular type of protein when damaged. Using gold nanorods which change colours on coming in contact with such proteins, a sure, easy and inexpensive system of early detection of kidney damage is being developed.
Nanotechnology in Wound Treatment
University of Wisconsin in the US have come up with a bandage that gives electrical pulses to a wound with the electricity coming from nanogenerators worn by the patient. Internal bleeding if left unrestrained can result in severe trauma to patients. To the help of patients of internal bleeding, researchers in US have developed nanoparticles made of polymer that mimic platelets which when injected result in significant reduction of blood loss.
Apart from the medical aspect ot nanotechnology, the following are some of the applications where it aids our health:
- Water treatment and filtration using nano-technology based membrane, zeolites, polymer filters, nano ceramic, clay, magnetic nanoparticles, polymer filters, catalysts and nano sensors. (Nano silver-activated carbon blocks developed by IIT Chennai is being used by Eureka Forbes in its Aqua guard Total Gold Nova range of filters)
- Tata Chemicals’ candle filters with magnetic nanoparticles are said to bring down costs to just 5% while keeping output as good if not better than the present.
- Rensselaer Polytechnic of the US and BHU, Varanasi have devised carbon nanotubes filters to remove micro contaminants in water.
- IIT Kharagpur’s synthesized iron oxide particles are said to remove arsenic from water