Nanotechnology and Its Application to Type 1 Diabetes Treatment
In the past year, I have seen the word "nanotechnology" mentioned in many fields of science. In November of 2009, a friend sent me a link to an article on nanotechnology and diabetes. Nanomedicine has many applications, from implantable devices to combining chemical and mechanical technology to change the molecules and/or atoms within the body.
The word nano, by definition means "dwarf," or one/billionth of a part. So, by definition, a nano device is extremely small. In a therapeutic approach, nanomedicine would utilize components as small as 1/80,000th the diameter of a human hair! At this level of microbiology, applications for nanomedicine include detection of molecules such as proteins or DNA, image enhancers, and, specific to those of us with diabetes, targeting specific tissue to deliver therapeutic agents.
Pharmaceutical companies are interested in this "tiny" research for obvious reasons: size matters! Wouldn't it be great if MRI apparatus didn't need their own trailer to house the gargantuan equipment! Smaller devices would be optimal, especially for smaller bodies. Even those of us who are big kids, less obvious devices for delivering medicine are always an improvement.
Several applications to look for in diabetes research using nanotechnology:
1) Blood Glucose Monitoring: Smaller more accurate blood glucose monitoring using implanted nanosensors. The University of California, San Francisco, is developing an artificial pancreas using nanotechnology. Unlike the Artificial Pancreas Project from JDRF, this artificial pancreas is using a capsule that will secrete insulin. When blood sugar flows into the capsule, it stimulates cells within the capsule to produce insulin.
2) Drug Delivery: Another nanotechnology that we've been seeing in the news is inhaled insulin.
3) Type 1 diabetes detection using a nano sensor: In a healthy person, acetone is 900 parts per billion, but in people suffering from type 1 diabetes, the number is double, and in people who are suffering DKA, or diabetic ketoacidosis, it is even higher.
4) Nanotechnology for a cure: JDRF has a partnership with University of Calgary for a vaccine using nanotechnology to cure type 1. This study has cured type 1 diabetes in mice, but as we are aware, mice have this capacity to heal better than the human body. This research is important, as it works from the angle of trying to stop the autoimmune attack.
Nanotechnology is a science that feels more like science fiction, but the fact is that the proof is in the product, and the research is startling! To all of you, I've just gotta sign off saying, "live long and prosper!"