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Abstract:
EurekAlert!'s online chat on the health and medical impacts of nanotechnology.

Nanotechnology Talk

January 12, 2005

Today an expert panel gathered to discuss the health and medical impacts of nanotechnology. The panel included Richard Siegel, James Baker and Jeffery Schloss. Richard Siegel is the Director of the Rensselaer Nanotechnology Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and also serves on the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST). James Baker, Jr. also serves on PCAST, and also founded the Center for Biologic Nanotechnology at the University of Michigan. Jeffery Schloss coordinates the development of nanotechnology strategy for the National Institutes of Health through his work with the National Human Genome Research Institute. Dr. Phil Szuromi was the moderator.

Here are the two questions posed by Rocky Rawstern, Editor, Nanotechnology Now:

RR: Given the recent advances in nanoparticle research as it applies to medicine, what practical applications do you see coming to market within the next five years?

Dr. Jeffery Schloss:

We've already heard about some examples of pharmaceuticals, and there are several more that are in clinical trials. To the extent that some of those succeed and are approved, we'll likely see new medicines such as cancer therapeutics. There may also be some new products for molecular and medical imaging to improve, for example, MRI exams.

Dr. James Baker:

Nanotechnology is a very young science and most of the breakthrough advances are in early stage development. Because it takes up to eight to ten years to get approval for new therapeutics, there will be a significant delay with many of the more remarkable applications for nanotechnology. Thus, the five-year window is less likely to bring unique change, whereas the ten to twenty year window is probably when the more remarkable applications will be seen.

RR: How do you – as scientists – help the public to understand the potential of nanomedicine? How can we – as a society – help insure that a nano-divide does not occur when it comes to distributing the benefits of nanomedicine to all?

Dr. James Baker:

Scientists need to take a lead role in educating the public about the potential for nanomedicine. By using the media to give real-life examples and visual representations of nanomaterials, we will be able to have people understand what is truly a real possibility and how it can benefit people's lives. The better educated the public are, the more supportive they will be of nanomedicine and the more rapidly we'll be able to develop nanomedicine applications. This relates to the second question. All healthcare is a societal issue that we need to deal with and the distribution of healthcare is one of the major issues our society will face as we move forward and our population ages. One of the hopes is that nanomedicines, nanobased health monitoring systems and nanodiagnostics can actually reduce the cost of healthcare to society. This will allow greater application of higher-quality healthcare to more individuals in our society, while at the same time, avoiding both the costs and pitfalls of current therapies. Let me give an example: To diagnose a tumor, we often have to use many different, expensive imaging studies, followed up by surgical procedures. If we can replace this with a nanomaterial, that could give a real-time diagnosis and allow earlier treatment of the disease before it becomes critical, we can save money in both the diagnostic and the therapeutic arena.

To read the entire Talk, click here



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