Can Nanotechnology Have An Impact For Patients With Diabetes?

Robert G. Smith, DPM, MSc, RPh, CPed

   In a study intended to develop a therapeutic approach, researchers showed that targeting of phage nanomedicines via specific antibodies to receptors on cancer cell membranes results in endocytosis, intracellular degradation and drug release.8,9 This results in growth inhibition of the target cells in vitro with a potentiation factor of > 1,000 over the corresponding free drugs, proving that nanomedicine technology offers significant advantages over traditional medication delivery.

   Hromadka and co-workers summarize nanofibers, which mimic collagen fibrils in the extracellular matrix.9 These nanofibers can be created from a host of natural and synthetic compounds that may be beneficial to treating burn wounds. As the authors note, nanofiber technology can dramatically accelerate the development of innovative dressing materials for wound healing. Collagen nanofiber mats have shown increased wound healing properties. In addition, nanofibers have a significant potential in targeted drug delivery. This includes the delivery of antibiotics, analgesics and growth factors that will promote burn healing, decrease wound infection and improve scarring.9

   A recent review focused on the results of in vivo studies of polyacrylate nanoparticle emulsions for topical and systemic applications.10 The authors conclude that emulsions containing polyacrylate nanoparticles may demonstrate potential in treating skin and systemic infections.

What Does The Future Hold For Nanotechnology?

   Most scientists believe nanotechnology will start seriously influencing medicine around the year 2020.4,11 Nanotechnology has revolutionized many research areas. Orthopedic research is currently looking at the use of nanotechnology to address associated orthopedic implant design and tissue regeneration.12

   The success of orthopedic implants and tissue engineered constructs greatly depends on the biocompatibility of the material.12 Several techniques for patterning implant surfaces and efficiently constructing scaffolds for tissue engineering have emerged. Some of these techniques include lithography, polymer demixing, phase separation chemical etching, electrospinning and molecular self-assembly.12

   Various tissue engineering strategies have adopted composite scaffold approaches to mimic bone more closely because it is considered a natural composite of nanohydroxyapatite.12 Nanoparticles including calcium triphosphate, bioactive glass, hydroxyapatite, synthetic chitin, chitosan and biodegradable polymers have been fabricated into porous three-dimensional scaffolds for bone repair and regeneration purposes.12,13 This approach not only allows for mimicking bone in composition but the incorporation of nanoceramics enhances the material’s mechanical strength and nanopographic features.12

   The utilization of polymer ceramic matrices containing single or multi-walled carbon nanotubes offers high tensile strength, high flexibility and low density that can be exploited to develop more successful orthopedic implant materials.12,14 With the advent of nanofabrication techniques, scientists may fabricate several biomaterials into nanostructures that simulate the native hierarchical structure of the bone.

In Conclusion

   The science of nanotechnology is already an integral part our daily lives in computers and the cell phone industry. Although the science is still in its infancy, it is a natural progression. Healthcare providers have embraced nanotechnology in an attempt to better diagnose and treat pathological processes and diseases.

   There has been a great deal of work specific to nanotechnology for disease states such as diabetes mellitus, infection processes, wound healing applications as well as orthopedic applications. Podiatric physicians should become familiar with nanotechnology and the potential implications this science may have within the specialty of podiatric medicine.

Dr. Smith is in private practice at Shoe String Podiatry in Ormond Beach, Fla.
Dr. Steinberg is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Plastic Surgery at the Georgetown University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C. Dr. Steinberg is a Fellow of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons.


Dr Smith,
Very throughout article on nano technology. You say that it is believed that we will not start actively using this tech till the year 2020. I believe it will be much sooner then that. I have read many current articles that state that we are very close to coming out with multiple treatments that utilize nano technology to one degree or another. It all looks very promising!

Tulsa Podiatrist

I agree that we are closer than 2020, I have also read articles that state 4 years to be the estimated time.

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