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For the health sector, nanotechnology has the potential, for example, to:

  • Increase absorption and targeting of medication
  • Reduce side effects by increasing and improving the delivery mechanisms
  • Offer new possibilities in implantation
  • Enable the combination of diagnosis and treatment in one single system
  • Result in radical new diagnostics and therapeutics that cannot be predicted

Current and potential future commercial applications of nanotechnology in the field of medicine and health includes: implants and prosthetics, diagnostics using MEMs and sensors, drug delivery using nanoparticles, lab-on-chip, and advanced drug delivery systems. Nanotechnology can be regarded as a technology platform leading to diagnostics, pharmaceuticals and medical devices. It has the potential to help in addressing previously untreatable ailments and in detecting and treating major illnesses at earlier stages and more effectively. However, it is in the nature of health research and development that the costs of product development and delivery to the patient (including clinical trials) are high and it is necessary to have a robust market demand for the products to drive its growth.

As a technology platform, achieving the promise of nanotechnology lies in boosting all kinds of research and economic initiatives in medical research and development (R&D) areas. R&D is intensive within the areas of pharmaceuticals and medical devices, with high costs related to product development.

Many companies identify themselves as being active in the area of health nanotechnology. Where their product is generic with many applications in a wide range of sectors, one of which is health, their product will often not appear as health-specific. Here efforts have been made to identify only products that are health-specific thereby increasing the relevance (but reducing the number) of products.

Commercial application markets of nanotechnology for health include:

  • Drug delivery vehicles
  • Biomedical markers and detection aids
  • Ferrofluids
  • MRI contrast agents
  • Surface disinfectants
  • Proteomics applications
  • Synthetic bone and tooth enamel
  • Transfection reagents
  • Nanoporous membranes
  • Antimicrobials
  • Drug production and mixing systems

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