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Health Care in Developing Countries Could be Greatly Improved by Nanotechnology
"Nanotechnology has the potential to generate enormous health benefits for the more than five
billion people living in the developing world," according to Dr. Peter A.
Singer, senior scientist at the McLaughlin-Rotman Centre for Global Health
and professor of medicine at University of Toronto.
"But it remains to be seen whether novel applications of nanotechnology
will deliver on their promise. A fundamental problem is that people are not
engaged and are not talking to each other. Business has little incentive-as
shown by the lack of new drugs for malaria, dengue fever and other diseases
that disproportionately affect people in developing countries-to invest in
the appropriate nanotechnology research targeted at the developing world."
Dr. Singer's group in Toronto published a study in 2005 identifying and
ranking the ten nanotechnologies most likely to benefit the developing
world in the near future. Nanotechnology applications related to energy
storage, production, and conversion; agricultural productivity enhancement;
water treatment and remediation; and diagnosis and treatment of diseases
topped the list.
"Countries like Brazil, India, China and South Africa have significant
nanotechnology research initiatives that could be directed toward the
particular needs of the poor. But there is still a danger-if market forces
are the only dynamic-that small minorities of people in wealthy nations
will benefit from nanotechnology breakthroughs in the health sector, while
large majorities, mainly in the developing world, will not," noted Dr.
Andrew Maynard, chief science advisor for the Project on Emerging
Dr. Piotr Grodzinski, director of the Nanotechnology Alliance for
Cancer at the National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health
(NIH) discussed the impact of nanotechnology on diagnostics and therapies
for cancer. He said, "It is my belief that nanomaterials and nanomedical
devices will play increasingly critical and beneficial roles in improving
the way we diagnose, treat, and ultimately prevent cancer and other
diseases. But we face challenges; the complexity of clinical implementation
and the treatment cost may cause gradual, rather than immediate,
distribution of these novel yet effective approaches."
"For example, in the future, it may be possible for citizens in
Bangladesh to place contaminated water in inexpensive transparent bottles
that will disinfect the water when placed in direct sunlight, or for
doctors in Mexico to give patients inhalable vaccines that do not need
refrigeration," Dr. Maynard noted.
The discussion took place at a program entitled "Using Nanotechnology
to Improve Health Care in Developing Countries," held at the Woodrow Wilson
International Center for Scholars. The event was organized by the Wilson
Center's Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies and Global Health Initiative.
About The Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies
The Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies is an initiative launched by
the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and The Pew Charitable
Trusts in 2005.
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