Sunday, July 18, 2004

Here's the plain deal on biomedical nanobots

This just in from The Plain Dealer in Cleveland, running a Newhouse News Service story:

    Today, scientists envision ever-longer lives, boosted by experimental techniques like these:

    Nanotechnology, which sends tiny robots into the body to strike disease, managing molecules and potentially slowing or even stopping aging. More here

Wow. One week out of a nanotech newsroom, and I guess I've missed some important developments. Apparently, the little robots have migrated from the pants to the rest of the body, striking at disease. The "slowing or even stopping aging" phase is only a "potential" benefit.

In reality, nanoparticles are being called into action in the fight against disease. If you want to call them, "tiny robots," that sounds cool, I guess, if you broaden your definition of "robot" a bit. Thanks to the Fresh Prince, robots are again the subject of public fascination and horror, which fits right in with the current state of the nano meme.

Combinex, a product by Advanced Magnetics Inc. (AMEX: AVM, News, Discussion, Web site) doesn't exactly involve "tiny robots," but it does use iron oxide nanoparticles as an imaging agent to help differentiate between healthy and cancerous lymph nodes. AVM is in the process of seeking U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval.

And you know how some groups have managed to successfully paint buckyballs as an evil cancer-causing agent that damages fish and fetuses. Well, in reality, they hold the key to possible cancer treatments or cures, with companies like C Sixty leading the way with preclinical trials and a partnership with at least one fairly significant drug company.

And Australia-based Starpharma is conducting FDA-approved clinical trials of VivaGel, which contains another kind of manmade molecule called the dendrimer, as a treatment for or precaution against HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases. Last November, the company sought volunteers (PDF, 88 KB) for its Phase I study. Starpharma's dendrimer intellectual property comes courtesy of Michigan's Dendritic Nanotechnologies Inc., headed by dendrimer inventor Donald Tomalia, profiled in a previous NanoBot post.

There's more, but you get the idea.

If the Plain Dealer wants to get the scoop on the real "tiny robots," they should send a reporter to an event in their own town Oct. 25-26. The Cleveland Clinic's NanoMedicine Summit. Yes, Cleveland not only rocks, but it's also a world center for nanobiotechnology. The event is part of NANO Week, Oct. 25-29. Recently added to the lineup is "Nanoparticles: Synthesis, Functionalization and Applications for Targeted Drug Delivery." Translation: "Tiny robots" that "strike disease."

OK, Plain Dealer. I take it back. You're right on target.

NanoBot Backgrounder
Nanobots: Body and antibody
Cancer death to cancer detection
Carlo's just a copycat

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