The Latest on Nanotechnology and Nano-Sized Drones

There is growing interest in the use of nanotechnology and ingestibles in medicine. Non-invasive ingestible sensors that measure vital signs, as well as ingestible devices that make procedures more comfortable, are now going mainstream. Another important area of progress in nanotechnology is the development of nanoparticles that can carry medication and target specific cells or tissues.

These biodegradable nano “drones” have huge potential in different areas of medicine. They have already been introduced into oncology and used to weaken tumor-cell defenses in mouse models. In 2015, heart disease experts also utilized nanotechnology to deliver drugs and repair arteries, paving the way for treating atherosclerosis in a novel way, possibly preventing heart attacks and strokes.  

Using Nanotechnology to Resolve Inflammation

A study in animal models, published in Science Translational Medicine, reported that nano-sized drones can be effective in restructuring atherosclerotic plaque, making the plaque more stable and less likely to break and turn into a potentially deadly blood clot. Researchers from Harvard Medical School, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Columbia University designed nanomedicines that were engineered to carry anti-inflammatory substances directly to the target site. Non-resolving inflammation is a major factor in the progression of atherosclerotic lesions.

When using nano drones that contained therapeutic substances made out of the body’s own anti-inflammatory protein annexin A1, a significant improvement was achieved in mice with advanced atherosclerosis. Not only was the inflammation reduced, the arteries of the mice also got repaired, a component of the treatment that is unique to this new form of therapy.

Repairing damaged coronary arteries can be very important for the prevention of heart attacks and might also curb the number of deaths resulting from atherosclerosis, which is currently a leading cause of illness and death in the United States. It has been speculated that the innovative process should soon be fine-tuned and tested on humans, offering an exciting way to treat inflammation with targeted, localized delivery of peptides.

Researchers from the Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering, Purdue University, described another breakthrough method in the treatment of inflammation using nanotechnology. They developed a collagen-binding nanoparticle system that can be used to treat peripheral artery disease. This new method uses nanoparticles that get bound to collagen and release anti-inflammatory peptides. These nanoparticles can also reduce inflammation, as well as promote regeneration of injured tissue.

Epithelial Wound Repair With Nanoparticles

Wound repair is another therapeutic area where nanoparticles can be successfully applied to facilitate the often-difficult healing process. Giovanna Leoni and colleagues at Emory University used the systemic delivery of nanoparticles containing natural protein annexin A1 to the injured intestinal mucosa. The chronic mucosal injury is a feature of many inflammatory conditions of the bowels, including ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease—conditions that affect an estimated 1.6 million Americans. A recent study on mice demonstrated that targeted delivery of anti-inflammatory substances enhances the healing process of wounded tissue and promotes epithelial wound repair. In their article, published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, the authors suggest that local delivery of peptides encapsulated within nanoparticles could be a new therapeutic strategy for people suffering from inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

There has also been some interest in the development of natural nanoparticles that can help treat conditions such as IBD. A nanoparticle derived from edible ginger was successfully used in a study led by MingZheng Zhang of Georgia State University, Atlanta. Natural nanoparticles could potentially minimize difficulties associated with the production of synthetic chemicals.

Nanomesh Dressing for Chronic Wounds

Another possible use of nanotechnology has been demonstrated by Martina Abrigo and her team of researchers at Australia’s Swinburne University of Technology. Abrigo is exploring external applications of tiny particles to treat chronically infected wounds. She created a mesh from electrospun polystyrene fibers that are designed to attract the bacteria out of the wound. The nanomesh offers optimal growing conditions for bacteria such as Staphylococcus Aureus and Escherichia Coli, so they are drawn to the mesh, leaving the wound clean. Bacterial response to meshes of different fiber diameters was tested through a combination of scanning electron microscopy and confocal microscopy.

The bacteria were specifically attracted to fibers that were approximately the same size as them. Results, published in the ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces, suggest that electrospinning nanofibers might be a new way of controlling wounds that are infected by common bacteria. So far, scientists have conducted only in vitro experiments and experiments on tissue-engineered through skin models. However, it is expected that in the near future, similar tests will be performed on living tissue to assess the potential of this new approach. In vivo studies have already been performed with some other types of nanoparticle wound dressings, for example, silver nanoparticles with some success.

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