Nanotechnology is revolutionizing the way things are constructed -- from stain resistant clothing to stronger, yet lighter tennis rackets. However, the biggest impact of nanotechnology in the future is expected to be in the healthcare industry.
At Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, researchers believe nanotechnology can lead to strikingly new ways to diagnosis and treat ovarian cancer. In a unique collaboration with Argonne National Laboratory and the Illinois Institute of Technology, Rush researchers are employing state-of-the-art nanotechnology to improve the health of women.
"While the mortality rates of many cancers have decreased significantly in recent decades, the rate for ovarian cancer had not changed much in the last 50 years, primarily due to delays in diagnosis," said Dr. Jacob Rotmensch, section director of gynecologic oncology at Rush. "By exploiting the unique properties of nanotechnology, we hope to detect ovarian cancer earlier using highly sensitive imaging tools and develop drug carriers that can deliver therapeutic agents inside tumor cells."
"A nanotechnology based approach is needed because diagnosis of early stage cancer requires the detection and characterization of very small quantities of biomarker," added Dr. Liaohai Chen, a molecular biologist and leader of the nano-bio group in the Biosciences Division at Argonne, and an adjunct faculty at Rush University Medical Center.
A nanometer is one billionth of a meter or 1/80,000 the width of a human hair. Nanoscale devices can perform tasks inside the body that would otherwise not be possible, such as entering most cells and moving through the walls of blood vessels. As a result, nanoscale devices can readily interact with individual molecules on both the cell surface and within the cell, in ways that do not alter the behavior of those molecules.