What is Nanomedicine?

Nanomedicine is defined as the medical application of nanotechnology. Nanomedicine can include a wide range of applications, including biosensors, tissue engineering, diagnostic devices, and many others. In the Center for Nanomedicine at Johns Hopkins, we focus on harnessing nanotechnology to more effectively diagnose, treat, and prevent various diseases. Our entire bodies are exposed to the medicines that we take, which can lead to unpleasant side effects and minimize the amount of medicine that reaches the places where it is needed. Medications can be more efficiently delivered to the site of action using nanotechnology, resulting in improved outcomes with less medication.

For example, treating cancer with current chemotherapy delivery techniques is like spraying an entire rose garden with poison in order to kill a single weed. It would be far more effective to spray a small amount of poison, directly on the weed, and save the roses. In this analogy, a cancer patient’s hair follicles, immune cells, and epithelia are the roses being poisoned by the chemotherapy. Using nanotechnology, we can direct the chemotherapy to the tumor and minimize exposure to the rest of the body. In addition, our nanotechnologies are more capable of bypassing internal barriers (see Technologies), further improving upon conventional nanotechnologies. Not only is our approach more effective at eradicating tumors (see “Cancer” under Research), but it also results in much higher quality of life for the patient.

Nanotechnology can also reduce the frequency with which we have to take our medications. Typically, the human body can very quickly and effectively remove medications, reducing the duration of action. For example, the current treatment for age-related macular degeneration (AMD) requires monthly injections into the eye in a clinical setting. However, if the medication is slowly released from the inside of a nanoparticle, the frequency of injection can be reduced to once every 6 months (see “Eye” under Research). The nanoparticle itself also slowly biodegrades into components that naturally occur in the body, which are also removed from the body after the medication has done its job. This exciting technology is currently being commercialized and moved toward clinical trials (see Commercialization).

Nanomedicine will lead to many more exciting medical breakthroughs. Please explore our various nanotechnology platforms and the numerous areas in which we are pursuing nanomedicine-based medical solutions.