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March 6th, 2008
Technological change can also bring significant benefits to the fight against chemical weapons. For example, advances in nanotechnology are expected to help in developing more effective protections against agents, such as new detection devices (faster, cheaper, more sensitive, and more selective sensors), and improved filtration materials, means of decontamination, and medical countermeasures.
Still, these scientific and technological gains undoubtedly come with new concerns. Nanotechnology offers the possibility to engineer "smart" materials that respond to specific stimuli. It also promises a more efficient and targeted drug delivery via the respiratory system and other pathways. For example, it could facilitate the entry of toxic chemicals into the body or specific organs, in particular the brain, for selective reaction with specific gene patterns or proteins or for overcoming the immune reaction of the target organism. These developments may have significant applications as new medicines and treatments. They could, however, also be exploited for the development of new chemical warfare agents or the fine-tuning of existing ones. Any offensive chemical weapons program begun today would surely take advantage of these new methods and concepts.
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