Nanotechnology promises employment, sustainability and health. The Dutch government invests heavily in it. But how do we achieve these promises? In preparation for a parliamentary debate about nanotechnology on 21 April 2010, the Rathenau Institute initiated a working visit of MPs to one of the most promising areas of its application: healthcare. This note sets out the promises, challenges and issues surrounding ‘nanomedicine’.
Bacteria, viruses, unhealthy diet or lifestyle, and errors in the genetic code, They all make us sick in different ways. But they also have one thing in common: they all operate at the molecular level. Nanotechnology manipulates and analyses matter at this level and therefore promises groundbreaking insights and solutions. Nanomedicine fits into a long tradition of medical science to search for biological mechanisms of disease at deepening physiological levels. According to researchers and developers, this knowledge shall lead to earlier detection, more accurate treatment of diseases and new treatments such as artificial organs.
Nanotechnology also offers possibilities for the miniaturisation of various medical devices and their integration with (wireless) ICT. Diagnosis and treatment can take place outside the laboratory or clinic, even at the patient’s home. Continuous monitoring of health seems to be within reach, also for healthy people.1 In short, nanotechnology promises a wave of new research areas in medicine and new applications for healthcare.