A (South) African perspective on nanomedicine development
Published in Nanomedicine.
“Imagine a world where doctors had the ability to destroy cancerous cells before they develop into tumour.”
Nanomedicine is expanding rapidly around the world, including South Africa. Nanomedicine it is the branch of medicine concerned with the use of nanotechnology to improve diagnosis, treatment, monitoring, control, and repair of all human biological systems using engineered devices and nanoinstruments to achieve optimum medical benefit.
In the health sector, nanomedicinal advancements have improved drastically; these include the use of biosensors for diagnostic purpose and biocompatible nanomaterials as drug, vaccine, and gene vehicles for therapy, and nanocapsules for cancer treatment.
Regardless of these developments in nanotechnology and nanomedicine, African countries are still falling behind, therefore the African governments still need to invest greatly in research and development (R&D) of nanotechnological research and human capacity building. Nanotechnology has the ability to completely transform the health care sector, particularly in developing countries like South Africa, where access to effective healthcare is still a challenge for millions of people living in poverty-stricken environments.
Nanoparticles are tiny particles that have been engineered to have different shapes, sizes, and forms for various purposes. These particles can be used to transport certain substances to specific areas of the body. The small size of these particles increases their surface area, which in turn improves their solubility, dissolution, and bioavailability. This leads to faster onset of action when used for medical treatments.
Nanoparticles have the potential to enhance performance and functionality in areas such as diagnostics, drug delivery, and health monitoring. Their small size allows them to easily enter living cells, potentially delivering drugs directly to diseased cells or pathogens without damaging healthy cells. Different types of nanomaterials are being investigated, including liposomes, lipids, dendrimers, nanocapsules, nanotubes, nanofibers, nanowires, and metallic nanoparticles.
Nanomedicine is preferred over conventional medicine due to the ability to manufacture new materials that target specific properties and functions. The goal of nanomedicine is to diagnose as early and accurately as possible, treat effectively without side effects, and assess treatment efficacy non-invasively.