Future of nanomedicines
Nanomedicines are increasingly being studied by scientists for different medicinal applications. These include more efficient drug delivery and targeting as well as personalised nanomedicine where a drug is administered to a patient based on their genetic profile.
Emerging nanomaterials such as block copolymer micelles, polymers, carbon nanotubes, quantum dots and dendrimers are designed to help deliver or target drugs more efficiently.
Carbon nanotubes are hexagonally bound carbon atoms that together take the shape of a hollow tube. They are being explored for applications in therapy, particularly in cancer treatment, but also for developing new diagnostic agents as well as nanosensors. Carbon nanotubes can be used to achieve targeted drug delivery.
Quantum dots are semiconductor nanocrystals that are composed of an inorganic core surrounded by a metallic shell. they can be used as drug carriers or as fluorescent labels for other drug carriers such as liposomes. They can help to combine molecular imaging for diagnostics with therapy, for example, in the development of theurapeutic strategies for cancer.
For both carbon nanotubes and quantum dots, toxicity is an important concern, and researchers are looking at how to make these materials less toxic before using them for medical applications.
Dendrimers are molecules with a regular and highly branched tree-like structure. They measure between 1 and 10 nanometres in diameter and have a hydrophobic internal cavity that can be filled with hydrophobic molecules, for instance, anticancer drugs. Compared to other drug carriers such as liposomes, dendrimers are mechanically more stable but can carry smaller amounts of the drug.
Theranostics and personalised nanomedicine
Personalised medicine refers to a therapeutic approach tailored to the individual characteristics of a patient through the use of techniques such as molecular profiling. In the future, nanotechnology may allow us to receive individualised therapeutic treatments. Newly developed nanomedicines include multi-component systems called theranostics that can, for example, incorporate both therapeutic and diagnostic molecules. The resulting nano-system will allow diagnosis, drug delivery and monitoring of the effects of the medicine. The development of such systems can help to reach the goal of obtaining individualised therapies for several diseases.
The reason behind the increasing amount of research done in the direction of personalised nanomedicine is that diseases such as cancer are extremely heterogeneous and the existing treatments are effective only for certain patients and at a certain stage of the disease. The administration of a theranostic agent to a patient can potentially allow monitoring of how well the patient responds to the nanomedicine, as the imaging molecules enable the real-time visualisation of the effect of the drug. As a result, drug dosage and treatment protocols can be optimised and individualised during follow-up.
- Journal of Personalised Medicine: Personalised Nanomedicine: A Revolution at the Nanoscale
- Clinical Cancer Research: Personalised nanomedicine
- International Journal of Medicine: Overview of the role of nanotechnological innovations in the detection and treatment of solid tumours
- ScienceDirect: Intelligent nanomaterials for medicine: carrier platforms and targeting strategies in the context of clinical application