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Nano Biotechnology; its concept, benefits and applications: a medical perspective

  • Nano Biotechnology; its concept, benefits and applications: a medical perspective

    Sana Shaheen1, Farah Kamal1, Rahil Shahzad2, Shakra Jamil2. Muhammad Zaffar Iqbal2

    1. Centre of Agricultural Biochemistry and Biotechnology, University of Agriculture Faisalabad.
    2. Agricultural Biotechnology Research Institute, AARI, Faisalabad.


    Nanotechnology is a scientific approach that involves materials and equipments capable of manipulating chemical or physical matter at molecular level. On the other hand, biotechnology uses the knowledge and techniques of biology to manipulate biological, genetic and cellular processes to synthesize different products and finds its applications from medicine to agriculture. Nanobiotechnology is the fusion of nanotechnology and biotechnology in which nano-machines can be synthesized by incorporating biological systems to study and manipulate different biological processes at molecular level. It is the application of nanotechnology in biological sciences that can play a vital role in developing and implementing useful tools in the study of life. One example of nanobiotechnology involves nanospheres coated with fluorescent polymers whose fluorescence is quenched when they encounter specific molecules. Different polymers would detect different metabolites. These polymer coated nanosheres can be introduced into the human body to track down metabolites associated with tumors and other health problems. Nanobiotechnology is much more commonplace in that it simply provides more tools for the study of biology.

    Advantages of Nano Biotechnology:

    Purpose designed nanomachines could be used to provide breakthrough treatments for many diseases. Medical nanomachines programmed to recognize and disassemble cancerous cells could be injected into the bloodstreams of cancer patients, thus providing quick and effective treatment for all types of cancers. Nanobiotechnology  could be used to repair damaged tissues and bones and even be used to strengthen bones and muscle tissues by providing molecular support structures by reassembling nearby tissues. And since nanomachines and nanoparticles will be designed to make copies of themselves, these treatments will be inexpensive and available to the entire population. It can also help creating smart drugs loaded onto nanoparticles leading to more specific delivery of biologically active compounds to enhance drug efficacy and reduces drug toxicity. These help cure people faster and without the side effects that other traditional drugs have. The research of nanobiotechnology in medicine is now focusing on areas like tissue regeneration, bone repair, immunity and even cures for such ailments like diabetes, cancer and other life threatening diseases. Nanosystems have capacity of selective localization in inflammed tissues. Various nanoproducts can be accumulated at higher concentration than normal drug.

    Applications of Nano Biotechnology:

    There are a number of applications of nanobiotechnology in medical and clinical fields such as disease diagnosis, target specific drug delivery and molecular imaging. Such advanced applications of this approach to biological systems will transform the disease diagnosis, treatment and prevention of the disease in future. Some of the applications are discussed below:

    Diagnostic applications: Current diagnostic methods for most diseases depends on the manifestation of visible symptoms. But by the time symptoms have appeared, there may be less chances for the treatment to be effective. Therefore, earlier a disease can be detected, more effective the cure is. Nanobiotechnology is expanding the currently available techniques for disease detection which will result in high sensitivity and far high efficiency. Nanobiotechnology offers a solution by providing semiconductor nanocrystals (also known as quantum dots) that allows detection of the disease by binding with disease specific targets. Nanosphere is one of the companies that developed techniques that allow doctors to optically detect the genetic compostion of biological specimen. This technique facilitate the detection of pathogenic organism and has shown promising results for the detection of various diseases.

    Therapeutic applications:

    Drugs loaded onto nanoparticle can be delivered to target sites even in locations that can’t be reached by standard drugs. These nanodrugs can be designed to stay in the body intact and will release only when the disease appeared then drug will be immediately available to became the treatment more effective. At the sametime harmful side effects are reduced. By encapsulating nanodrugs, release can be controlled from even hours to months and encapsulation also prevent its degradation when exposed to heat or extreme pH. Recent advances in encapsulation have demonstrated that microparticles and nanoparticles are capable of enhancing immunization.

    Nano technological tools for human gene therapy also have been tested in which nanoparticle based nonviral vectors are used to deliver a gene into the human body. Thus, the successful introduction of less immunogenic nanosized gene carriers as substitution of viral vectors seems beneficial in repairing or replacing impaired genes in human body. Liposomes being composed of lipid bilayer can be used in gene therapy due to its ability to pass through lipid bilayers and cell membranes of target cells. Nanobiotechnology can provide drugs for diseases at a very low cost that conventional pharmaceuticals cannot target. Potenia pharmaceuticals is the company that is attempting to develop drugs using the principles of nanotechnology. Genetic engineering (manipulation and modification) of nano-structures such as molecular sequences and genes can be achieved by nano-machines. The use of nano-networks will expands the potential applications of in genetic engineering. Nanorobots are mechanically animated machines capable of impossible feats. These helps in early diagnosis, targeted drug delivery and biomedical instrumentation surgery. Due to their small size, they swim through blood or crawl through body tissues and arrive at the injury site where they can assist in tissue repair process.

    Potential risks of nanoparticles:

    Nanoparticles as a result of their extreme microscopic dimensions which gives unique benefits, also have some potential hazards. Nanoparticles have the potential to cause various cardiovascular and gastrointestinal diseases. An experiment on mice has shown that carbon nanotubes have the potential to cause various lung diseases and toxicity caused by carbon nanotubes was found greater than that produced by carbon black and quartz. Accidental or involuntary contact during production or use of nanoparticles usually occur via lungs and translocate towards other vital organs through bloodstreams. Nanoparticles can also enter central nervous system through olfactory bulbs. Studies on monkeys and rats has shown such results. Nanotubes forms platelet aggregates thus its use should be substituted with fullerenes for designing nanoparticle based drug delivery system because fullerenes do not forms such aggregates. It will be a safer approach as compared to carbon nanotubes. The toxicity of nanoparticles also causes inflammation and organ damage as it accelerates inflammatory mediators. Thus the use of nanoparticles in human requires further research and much caution.


    The multidisciplinary field of nanobiotechnology is bringing the science of small devices closer and closer to reality. Nanobiotechnology offers wide range of uses in medicine. Drug delivery system and other such innovations are the beginning of something new. Expectations from nanobiotechnology in the medical field are high and the benefits are endlessly enlisted but the safety of nanomedicines are not yet defined. Scientists who are against the use of nanotechnology also agree that advancements in nanobiotechnology should continue because this field promises great benefits. It is possible that nanomedicines would play a crucial role in the treatment of human  diseases. If everything runs smoothly, nanobiotechnology will one day become an inevitable part of our life and will help saving many lives.


    Emerich DF, Thanos CG: Nanotechnology and medicine. Expert Opin Biol Ther 2003, 3:655–663

    Allen TM, Cullis PR: Drug delivery systems: entering the mainstream. Science 2004, 303:1818–1822

    Shaffer C: Nano-medicine transforms drug delivery. Drug Discov Today 2005, 10:1581–1582.

    Lin H, Datar RH: Medical applications of nanotechnology. Natl Med J India 2006, 19:27–32.

    About Rahil Shahzad

    I belong to District Sialkot. I am MSc (Hons) in Plant Breeding and Genetics, worked as Agriculture Officer Daska, Assistant Research Officer (Maize and Millet's Research Officer and Agricultural Biotechnology Research Institute, AARI, Faisalabad).

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