Researchers are experimenting with nanobots in healthcare to perform complicated medical practices with unprecedented levels of precision.
The field of nanotechnology deals with the science and study of materials at the molecular or subatomic level. Researchers from the healthcare industry are exploring the field of nanotechnology to enhance the quality of medical services provided to patients. And they have succeeded to some extent with the creation of nanobots. Almost everyone would have come across the use of robots and AI technology for healthcare practices. But, researchers in nanotechnology have created nanobots that have the potential to disrupt the healthcare industry. For instance, one of the major issues, while the treatment of a disease, is that the patients’ body does not absorb the entire drug dose. With the use of nanobots in healthcare, doctors can ensure that the drugs are delivered to a specific area with greater precision. The deployment of nanobots in different areas of medicinal practices can help doctors to treat patients more efficiently and quickly.
Applications of Nanobots in Healthcare
The invention of nanobots has paved the way for the growth of the nanomedicine sector. An estimate shows that the global market size of the nanomedicine sector is expected to grow up to $350.8 billion by 2025, at a CAGR of 11.2%. The increasing investment in the nanomedicine sector is understandable, considering the benefits of nanobots in healthcare.
Diagnostics and Screening
The healthcare industry is always on the lookout for better solutions to perform diagnostics for the timely treatment of diseases. Nanobots can offer a multitude of options for diagnosing diseases. One of the available options is using quantum dots. Quantum dots are nano-sized semiconductors that can fluoresce and act as biosensors to help in detecting disease. Currently, the healthcare industry uses organic dyes as biosensors, but quantum dots have many benefits over them. The luminescence of quantum dots can be tuned to a broad range of frequencies, and they can remain for a long time in the body as they degrade much slower than the dyes. Quantum dots can be helpful in diagnosing malaria by targeting them on a protein that is found in the blood cell’s inner membrane. On coming in contact with quantum dots, the shape of a protein changes if the cells are infected with malaria. Thus, scientists are able to detect the presence of malaria from the shape produced by the interaction of quantum dots with proteins.
Microbivore nanorobots are another option for diagnostics. Microbivore nanobots function similar to white blood cells, but they are much faster at destroying harmful bacteria. The nanobots can eliminate bacterial infections within minutes as they can precisely target harmful bacteria and direct antibodies towards them. Once the antibodies are attached to bacteria, the robots grab them inside their bodies, where bacteria are destroyed. And, then the bacteria are released in the bloodstream as harmless fragments.
The use of nanobots can help improve bioavailability, which is the amount of active ingredient per drug dose. It also helps to overcome challenges such as the sustained release of drugs in the body. Nanobots can achieve the optimal use of drugs by delivering them through nanovehicles. For instance, the use of liposomes, which are artificial vesicles made up of lipid bilayer. The lipid bilayer helps liposomes to fuse with and penetrate membranes more easily. Nanobiomagnets, along with nanobots, can be used for delivering drugs that are used to treat cancer. The nanobots are penetrated into the body and held at the target-specific site with the help of an external magnet. It is done to ensure that the drug is concentrated at the tumor site for a longer period of time for it to be absorbed.
Nanobots, with the help of nanocapsules, can help in the sustained release of drugs. Nanocapsules are pods that encapsulate drugs. The encapsulation ensures that the drugs are released more slowly and steadily into the body.
Monitor Health and Oxygen Level
Nanobots can function as sugar, cholesterol, and carbon dioxide sensors to help monitor the overall health of a person and treat accordingly. For instance, respirocyte nanobots can function similar to red blood cells but carry a greater quantity of oxygen. The nanobots contain a tank that carries oxygen, a sensor to detect the area where the concentration of oxygen is low, and a valve to release oxygen wherever needed. Also, by injecting nanobots into the diseased area, doctors can monitor the internal chemistry of organs with specific drugs. Moreover, nanobots can be equipped with transmitters to offer opportunities for the doctors to change the medication if a patient’s medical condition gets worse.
Antibiotics work well against almost all strains of bacteria, but they are developing antibiotic-resistant strains against antibiotics. At some points, medicines cannot be of much use. For instance, viruses become active once they take over a cell until then they are immune to antibiotics. A person’s immune system is generally effective in fighting organisms that can be recognized at a molecular level. But, some conditions like Ebola develop too rapidly for the immune system to respond. Whereas, diseases like HIV directly attacks the immune system, leaving close to no time for the immune system to respond. Nanobots can prove helpful in fighting such medical conditions as they are not vulnerable to attacks by natural pathogens. Computational resources that are unavailable to immune systems would be available to the nanobots. Nanobots can also be programmed to fight diseases that they have never encountered before. If any new disease shows up, then as soon as one nanobot analyzes it, every nanobot can benefit from it.
Cancer tissues are quite different than other tissues at the cellular level. Many cancer cells change the shape of the chemical structure on their surface, which makes them easier to identify. The immune system takes advantage of surface changes to destroy cancer cells, but it is not enough to eliminate cancer entirely as cancer cells grow at a rapid pace. But, nanobots can help solve the issue as they have many advantages over the immune system. Firstly, nanobots can physically enter the cells to scan the chemicals inside. Secondly, they can have computational resources to make calculations. Thirdly, they can be programmed and deployed according to the type of cancer or the organ where it exists. Nanobots can freely circulate throughout the body and periodically examine the cells to examine the presence of cancer.
Platelets are responsible for blood clotting, but depending on the size of the wound, platelets might take longer to form a clot, and may result in a significant amount of blood loss. Body of people suffering from conditions like high blood pressure and inefficiency of platelets is not able to form a blood clot quickly. Nanobots called clotocyte nanorobots functions similar to platelets in a person’s body. Clotocyte nanobots can stick together in a wound to form a clot and stop blood flow. The nanobots store fibers until they encounter a wound. As soon as they come across a wound, they disperse their fibers, that can come together and form a clot. Nanobots can form clots in a fraction of the time that the platelets do.
Nanobots are definitely not yet ready for prime time, but the vision of a day when nanobots would be at work annihilating pathogens from the bloodstream is alive in nanotech labs all around the world. Although many theories are put forward for the applications of nanobots in the healthcare industry, there aren’t many practical uses seen yet. One of the major challenges that hold back the use of nanobots is that there is no system to control nanobots. Once nanobots are injected into the bloodstream of a patient, they cannot be controlled. Further advancements in programming and hardware systems might someday be able to control the movement of nanobots and increase its practical use cases.