When Tiny Steps are Good: Nanotechnology Advances

Phyllis Johnson Health Guide February 03, 2013
  • Honeybee silk, virtual thermometer, ebola virus deconstruction?  What happened?  I clicked on a link to an article that promised to tell me about using Vitamin D to treat inflammatory breast cancer.  Had I stumbled on a website filled with quack treatment promises?

     

    More careful reading revealed that I was on a website devoted to nanotechnology news and reading an article announcing the Biophysical Society Conference to Discuss Nanomedicine, Materials and Physics scheduled for Feb. 2-6, 2013 in Philadelphia.  As I scanned down the list of topics, eventually I found what I was looking for:  “Vitamin D to Fight Breast Cancer.”

     

    Researchers Jeremy Bonor, Rachel Schaefer, and Anja Nohe wanted to see if they could deliver high concentrations of Vitamin D to tumors in mice using a device called a quantum dot.  Because women with a low level of Vitamin D at the time of diagnosis are 94% more likely to have their cancer spread and 73% more likely to die within 10 years, the scientists wanted to find a good way to get Vitamin D to tumor cells in mice with IBC--an especially difficult task because in IBC there isn’t usually a solid tumor.

     

    Nanotechology is a branch of technology that works at the atomic or molecular level.  Quantum dots are tiny light-emitting crystals that can be engineered to seek out a particular disease or type of cell.  In the experiment with the mice, the quantum dots were able to find tumor cells even those that had metastasized to other parts of the body and administer the Vitamin D.

     

    In another presentation at this week’s conference, researchers will report their findings on using nanotechnology to learn how breast cells go from healthy to cancerous. 

     

    Don’t run to your doctor and ask for quantum dots.  This is the kind of basic research that may take years to find its way to your doctor’s office.  What I found fascinating is that there is a whole branch of science developing new ways of studying diseases and designing treatments to cure them.  Scientists at this conference will learn about autism, psychosis, Ebola, and cancer.  They will share ideas that will lead to better treatments.  

     

    Sometimes it seems that medical research progresses in tiny steps.  With nanotechnology, tiny is good.  Working at the atomic and molecular level may lead to giant steps.

     

     

    Bonor, R. Schaefer, A. Nohe.  Using Calcitriol Conjugated Quantum Dots to Target Inflammatory Breast Cancer Tumors and Metastasis In Vivo. Retrieved from http://tinyurl.com/acw94xg

     

    E. Weiss. Quantum dots deliver Vitamin D to tumors for possible inflammatory breast cancer treatment. Retrieved from http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2013-02/aiop-qdd020113.php