Seeking to fulfill nanotechnology’s medical promise
Nanotechnology promises to provide new solutions to perennial health problems, according to a prominent medical researcher scheduled to speak at the University of Missouri–Columbia this weekend.
Gregory Lanza, an associate professor of medicine and biomedical engineering at Washington University in St. Louis, Mo., will discuss the burgeoning field of “nanomedicine” during the third annual Nanoalliance Conference that will bring nanotechnology researchers from around the world to MU on Oct. 6 and 7. The conference, cosponsored by the MU College of Engineering, will focus on how nanotechnology can benefit the life sciences.
“It has a lot of opportunity in the biomedical field,” Lanza said.
Both Lanza and MU researchers are among those working to uncover those opportunities. Lanza is researching a nanotechnology–based technique to reduce arterial plaque, which can cause heart attacks and strokes. Kattesh Katti, an MU professor of radiology and biological physics, leads a team developing a nanotechnology tool, funded by the National Cancer Institute, to combat prostate and various other cancers.
Both researchers believe nanotechnology can make medical diagnoses easier by providing better imaging tools.
Nanotechnology’s great potential is based on the miniature size of the materials it manipulates, which may be a thousand times smaller than a human cell. As small as nanoparticles are, they nonetheless are larger than medicines or diagnostic materials traditionally used for diagnoses, Lanza said. That means nanoparticles can carry more medicine or diagnostic agents than more traditional materials.
“It’s just a bigger truck,” Lanza said.
The first wave of research designed to use these unique characteristics for medical benefit is just now starting to undergo clinical trials. While cautioning against unrealistic expectations, Lanza predicted important nanomedical discoveries.
“There are some problems nanotechnology is well suited to solve,” he said.