WaPo finds the future of nanomedicine to be very promising: “Nanomedicine’s Promise Is Anything but Tiny.”
Quantum dots, also known as “qdots,” are bits of material — silicon, for example — that are so tiny they are in some cases just a few atoms across. Illuminated by ultraviolet light, they glow very brightly with a specific hue that depends on their size: qdots with diameters of about 2 nanometers (billionths of a meter) glow bright green, for example; 5 nanometer dots glow brilliant red.
Scientists are already using quantum dots as research tools to help them understand how proteins, DNA and other biological molecules catch rides on the various transportation systems inside cells. First they coat some qdots with a material that makes the dots attach specifically to the molecule they want to track, then they inject those coated dots into cells growing in laboratory dishes. Once the dots grab their targets, researchers simply watch the trails of colored light to see where they go.
Qdots shine brighter and longer than conventional dyes used to illuminate the inner workings of cells. And by coating different size qdots so each attaches to a different kind of molecule, scientists can track the movements of many substances in a cell at once by following the various color trails.
Now scientists are developing qdots not just for basic research but to diagnose diseases.
There are scores of proteins and other substances in the body that are early indicators of disease but which are difficult to detect with current technologies. While qdots and other nanomaterials have not been proved safe for use in the body, they are clearly capable of spotting diseases in blood or tissue specimens. Qdots that bind to proteins unique to cancer cells, for example, can literally bring tumors to light.
Read the whole thing about quantum dots, nanogels, nanotubes, and the future of nanomedicine…