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/Nano, here we come!

Siwanowicz-barnacle-appendages
Thanks to Igor Siwanowicz for this great microscopic vision.

Micro is yesterday, Nano is tomorrow.
Proteins used by the human body to regulate and maintain homeostasis exist on the nanoscale. Probably one of the best-known naturally occurring nanomaterials is hemoglobin, which carries oxygen through the bloodstream, which is 5 nms in diameter. What’s 5 nanometers? A nanometer is one billionth of a meter. This is roughly ten times the size of an individual atom. That’s small! For comparison, 5 nanometers is 2000 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair. How small is that? “If a centimeter is represented by a football field, a nanometer would be the width of a human hair lying on the field. If you fill a 1 cm cube with particles that are 1 nanometer in size, the surface area of all those particles is an astonishing 6,000 square meters, nearly the surface area of 3 football fields.

Enter particles that are purposefully manufactured with nanoscale dimensions, and we have nanoparticles.
Pros: they can enter the body through cells, into the bloodstream, and effect medicinally positive change. Example: diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer – we can finally get to the body from the inside.
Cons: they can enter the body through cells, into the bloodstream, and effect medicinally negative change. Example: Dunkin Donuts used them in their white powder coatings, and we don’t know what they (titanium dioxide) do in the bloodstream.

Bottom line, nanoparticles are so damn small that they can be considered the human equivalent of microelectronics – where the effects are subject to programming. They can – and will – go places we have heretofore been unable to go. Like any new pathway, it will be used in all ways possible.  Brave New World indeed, Aldous.

Fri, May 29 2015 » science, the new image