Promise of nanotechnology for fighting infectious diseases will balance public's safety concerns

A Newsdesk feature by Kelly Morris titled “Nanotechnology crucial in fighting infectious disease” in the April 2009 issue of Lancet Infectious Diseases surveys some highlights in developing nanotech efforts to prevent, diagnose, and treat infectious diseases. Examples include detecting disease through lab-on-a-chip technology featuring cantilevers that move upon binding antigens and nanowires that detect current from binding immune cells. Prevention efforts will benefit from nanotechnology-based coatings that kill bacteria and viruses upon contact. Nanotechnology-based therapeutic efforts under development include blood purification devices to treat septic shock and improved drug delivery methods. Morris acknowledges concerns over safety issues related to developing nanotechnology:

Christine Peterson, vice-president of the Foresight Institute (Palo Alto, CA, USA) expects that “nanotech will be like biotech with respect to ethical or toxicity issues: the public is more tolerant regarding medical uses than for uses in less-critical applications”. And, she is sure that “in the longer term, nanotechnology-based treatments are the most promising pathway for tackling infectious diseases”.


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