Nanotechnology is one of the critical technologies of the twenty-first century. Today, this generic term includes various individual areas that have crystallized over the years, including nano-electronics, nano-optics, and nanobiotechnology—the latter combines working methods from nanotechnology with findings and methods from biology and biotechnology. Modern medicine, in particular, sees excellent potential in the symbiosis of these two disciplines, but life sciences and environmental technology are also showing interest. And some developments have already found their way into our everyday lives.
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Smaller Than Small
In nanotechnology, everything takes place in a range from 1 to 100 nm. How can you imagine such a small size of 10 -9 meters? If you compare a thread that is one nanometer thick with one of our hairs, its diameter is less than a thousandth of a hair. Relative to human size, a nanometer is about the size of a marble compared to Earth.
But nanotechnology is not only determined by height. Many physical and chemical properties also change in these submolecular areas. Copper becomes transparent, silicon atoms become conductive, and chemical reactivity changes. It is much larger than the macroscopic world due to the large surface area to volume ratio.
Nanobiotechnology Is More Than Biotechnology In The Smallest Of Spaces
As the name suggests, nanobiotechnology combines biology and biotechnology with nanotechnology. As a link, it makes findings and working methods from both biology and biotechnology usable for nanotechnology and vice versa. “bio2nano” stands for processes that use biological materials or blueprints as a model to produce functional nanotechnology. At the same time, “nano bio” means nanotechnology to analyze and create biological nanosystems.
Medicine Has High Hopes For Nanobiotechnology
Nanoparticles For Targeted Drug Delivery
One of the areas in which the most intensive research has been done and where significant progress has already been made is the targeted delivery and release of drugs in the human body. Nanobiotechnology can be used in a targeted manner, especially in cancer therapy, in which active substances are only to be transported to the affected cells. How does this work? The desired active substance is enclosed in biocompatible nanoparticles, so-called vesicles.
These consist, for example, of modified liposomes or biocompatible polymers such as polycaprolactone, polyimides, or polyvinyl alcohol. The active ingredient is protected from premature degradation in the blisters and can be transported to its destination in the body.
To achieve this in a targeted manner, the vesicle surfaces are modified, and unique proteins, so-called antigens, are built into the shell. These very specifically recognize specific surface proteins only present on cancer cells and therefore only dock to them.
What is still missing is the targeted release of active ingredients. This should not occur during transport, but only at the destination and often with a time delay. Biocompatible vesicles, gradually broken down in the body, are suitable for this. The thickness of their shell can manipulate the time to drug release. The enclosed active ingredient is released more quickly with a thinner body, with a thicker one correspondingly more slowly. The first cancer preparations that use nanoparticles in a targeted manner are already on the market.
Diagnostic Options And Predictable Gene Transfer
The surfaces of the nanoparticles can be modified with very different molecules, which modern medical diagnostics take advantage of. Not only do antigens against surface proteins specifically recognize certain cancer cells, but also nanoparticles equipped with specific RNA sequences have already been used successfully as cancer markers. By incorporating fluorescence markers into the nanoparticles, it is also possible to make their location visible using remarkable imaging technologies. This provides physicians with a particular and, above all, non-invasive diagnostic method.
Finally, gene therapy is also placing great hopes in this area of nanobiotechnology. Because these vesicles can also be used as “gene shuttles” and thus bring specific gene sequences very precisely to their destination. This would make it possible, for example, to replace defective gene sections responsible for genetic diseases with healthy ones. This idea has been pursued by using specific viral vectors for gene transfer, but its use has been limited due to side effects. The blisters that have now been developed appear to be much better tolerated, giving medical research new hope in this area.
Nanobiotechnology is also interesting for other areas of medicine. Researchers are working on developing surfaces that promote cell growth. The so-called “tissue engineering” aims to support natural cell growth. In this way, wound healing and the development of skin cells could be stimulated after burns without causing scarring.
Depending on the tissue, biocompatible materials are also used here, which, in the form of nanofilaments or nanotubes, help the cells to build an “artificial tissue” as a framework. In other cases, cell growth is undesirable on surfaces, such as on stents placed in patients with narrowed blood vessels to keep them open. These materials are modified so that cells do not adhere to them under any circumstances.
How To Harness Biology In Nanotechnology
One of the best-known examples of “bio nano” is the lotus effect. This natural principle was reproduced and ensured that our functional jackets do not get wet and that building facades can safely be exposed to the rain. Nanobiotechnology has already found its way into everyday life in other areas. The bacterial protein “rhodopsin” distinguishes fakes from the original. When irradiated with an intense light source, this protein changes color from purple to yellow, reversible in the dark.
Therefore, it is sufficient to hold a suitably prepared document, which cannot be distinguished from the original under normal lighting conditions, under a vital light source. If the color changes, it’s the original; otherwise, it’s a fake. Other ideas use the structures of biological systems and would like to make them usable as biosensors or nano process technology. Viruses are used for this, for example, consisting of relatively simple structures.
For example, the plant tobacco mosaic virus contains a tubular, relatively rigid part of repeating protein units. This structure can serve as a framework for further modifications. In this way, individual metal atoms can be deposited within a nanotube and used as “molecular cables” to conduct the tiniest electrical currents. An application in nanotechnology or as a biosensor is therefore conceivable.
The Potential Of NanoBioTechnology Is Far From Exhausted
Many ideas for linking nanotechnology, biology, and biotechnology are still in the research stage. Others have already been implemented. The development of new practical applications and the further development of analytical techniques in biology and the life sciences are part of nanobiotechnology. The uv vis spectrometer is one of the tools that can be used for analysis and monitoring in biotech, and therefore nanotech.
Observing processes in the cell at the molecular level or the development of ever more minor and better DNA chips are just two examples of this. As a result, we better understand what is going on in our cells. We can, in turn, make these results usable, be it for tailor-made therapeutic approaches in medicine, for the development of biosensors, or somewhat romantic ideas, such as “nano cables ” for use in communication technology.