Nanotechnology-Detecting Cancer Early
Nanoscience is not a very easy technology to grasp with the mind because we are talking about an extremely tiny scale of things. Nanoscience can basically zoom in on atoms and molecules and allow us to see and control them, not with a naked eye, of course. By being able to control properties of things at such a tiny level, it is possible to build stronger, more durable, lighter and more efficient products and materials.
To give you an example of nanometer size: one inch holds 25,400,000 nanometers, and a newspaper is approximately 100 thousand nanometers in thickness. You might think, that’s just too small, and how in the world are you able to detect anything at that level? Unless you are a lab worker or a passionate biologist, nanoscience may be difficult to comprehend or spark much interest of a regular person. But, this incredible technology may be the answer to detecting cancer cells in the body at very early stages.
There are some amazing facts about nanoscience. When you take an object and break it down to nanometers, these particles are able to change colors. For example, if you take a piece of gold and break it down to small dust particles, based on the size of a particle in nanometers, it will reflect a different color, like red, orange, green or blue. This shows us that size is key when it comes to nanotechnology. Nanometer size also effects how certain particles travel throughout the body.
Sangeeta Bhatia is a bioengineer and physician, who gave a TED talk on this amazing technology. She believes that by taking a specific size of nanoparticles and injecting them into the bloodstream, can detect tumors quickly. It is known that blood vessels of cancer tumors are leaky, which would cause nanoparticles to leak out of them. Consequently, the nanoparticles would be able to locate the tumor chemical reactions that cause cancer to spread all over the body. How does this work? When a tumor is ready to come out of its original tissue and spread to the body, it creates a chemical or an enzyme to break through the tissue and get out.
The nano particles are designed to be activated by these enzymes, and then pass this information to the outside world, exposing the cancer tumors earlier than ever. One of the nanoparticles is able to detect over one thousand cancerous chemical reactions in one hour! After the nanoparticles detect the tumors, they pass through the kidneys and through the urine. A patient can simply do a paper test (similar to a pregnancy test), that will show up as a specific molecule detecting cancer in the body. Sangeeta Bhatia’s dream is to create an opportunity where patients can receive a shot, wait one hour and take a urine test to be able to know if they have a tumor in their body. This would replace inconvenient, expensive and timely procedures such as mammograms and colonoscopies.
Nanoscience and nanotechnology is definitely a very promising and incredible way of detecting cancer faster and easier in the near future. Just imagine how much simpler and much more convenient it would be to walk into a facility and take a quick urine test to know if you have a tumor anywhere in your body! This could definitely prevent cancer from spreading by allowing the patients to act fast, and save lives more than ever all around the world.