News / Health

Australian Nanomedicine Conference Targets Radical Diseases

Researchers work in a clean room at the expanded University of Michigan Lurie Nanofabrication Facility in Ann Arbor, Michigan, April 10, 2008.Researchers work in a clean room at the expanded University of Michigan Lurie Nanofabrication Facility in Ann Arbor, Michigan, April 10, 2008.
x
Researchers work in a clean room at the expanded University of Michigan Lurie Nanofabrication Facility in Ann Arbor, Michigan, April 10, 2008.
Researchers work in a clean room at the expanded University of Michigan Lurie Nanofabrication Facility in Ann Arbor, Michigan, April 10, 2008.
TEXT SIZE - +
Phil Mercer
SYDNEY — Researchers in Australia say microscopic robots could soon be swimming around our bloodstream repairing cells and diagnosing diseases.  Drugs with improved therapeutic properties that can target affected parts of the body without damaging surrounding tissue have been the focus of an international nanomedicine conference in Australia.

The conference, organized by the University of New South Wales in Sydney, has brought together academics and clinicians from 16 countries, including the United States, Britain and Australia.

They have highlighted research into targeted drug delivery systems, diagnostics and regenerative therapies, all enabled by nanomedicine.

It is the building of tiny machines to help combat disease. It is a field of research that works at a very small scale. A nanometer is equivalent to one-billionth of a meter or the size of a single strand of DNA.

"I see enormous potential in this technology to be able to deliver drugs or deliver gene-silencing tools to target cancer-causing genes in tumor cells, so where we can load up this payload on our little trucks . . . [and] deliver specifically to the tumor cells and spare the normal cells," said Maria Kavallaris, from the Australia Center for Nanomedicine, one of the conference organizers.

Scientists say nanomedicine could transform the way we understand and treat HIV, multiple sclerosis, schizophrenia and diabetes. Patrick Boisseau from the French Atomic Energy Commission believes that cancer therapies will also become far more effective:

"I really believe that some nanotechnologies will help… for the early detection of cancer.  Nanotechnologies will have… an impact on cancer [and] inflammatory diseases," Boisseau noted.  "The benefits for the patients are really this targeted delivery. So it means we expect to have much less side-effects, so the quality of life of the patient will be much better."

In basic terms, nano-sized particles or beads are loaded with proteins, which are organic compounds that are vital to human health. This creates a coded message that researchers believe will repair damaged cells or help "switch off" certain genes linked to various diseases.

Gordon Wallace, a professor at the University of Wollongong, is developing microscopic robots that could help fight disease inside the body. Nanorobots with wireless transmitters could circulate in the bloodstream to monitor chemical imbalances.  Wallace says his research will have other uses:

"In the medical bionics area we have some targeted applications. One is building better electrodes for cochlear ear implants - the bionic ear, for example," Wallace explained.  "So these particular nano-structured materials have to interface better with nerve cells or more effectively with nerve cells.  We work with the other clinicians to develop conduits, which will be used as implants for nerve and muscle regeneration, for example. Again, using electrical stimulation of nanomaterials to effectively achieve that."

Professor Justin Gooding from the University of New South Wales says this type of work has increased rapidly in recent years and that researchers have ambitious objectives.

"For me the big goal is, well, let us not make a device that just tells you whether you have got a disease, let us make a device that tells you have got the disease, delivers the therapeutic to cure that disease and then delivers the information that actually the treatment has been effective.  And, let us do that for a device that is personalized for you, so the treatment strategy is personalized for you. Putting all those ideas into one thing, that is a fantastic goal, I think," said Gooding.

Researchers at the Sydney conference say that such ambitions health care solutions that were once confined to the realm of science fiction will soon be within reach.

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid