Thursday, July 26, 2007

What makes 'nano' technology?

I've had dendrimers on my mind lately, for a number of reasons that I'll reveal soon. But, first, I wanted to share the illustration above. It's not a new one, but you're going to see it used in the news more and more as Starpharma's dendrimer-based anti-HIV microbicide, VivaGel, goes through clinical trials. (They're still recruiting patients, by the way.)

I've been asked many times why I'm so bothered by the perception out there that any kind of nanoscale particle contained in a product makes the product "nanotechnology." No. It doesn't.

Who cares? What's the difference?

Well, the dendrimer pictured above is a simple, yet illustrative example of what is meant by “nanotechnology.” The dendrimer is not a passive nanoscale material just waiting to bump into its target. The dendrimer’s tendrils are engineered to seek out and neutralize specific areas of HIV, working in a coordinated attack at various points.

That's why Donald Tomalia's invention is finally proving itself, by performing much better than other microbicides undergoing clinical trials in the fight against HIV in the developing world.

I'll have much more to say on this in the future. Stay tuned.

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Nanomedicine story: The writer's cut
The Tao of Dow, revisited

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