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 Relatives of South Korean Ferry Victims Fire at Authorities

46 people are confirmed dead, but some 250 remain trapped inside sunken ferry More

War Legacy Haunts Vietnam, US Relations

$84 million project aims to clean up soil contaminated by Agent Orange More

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid