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Nanotechnological applications to open up new opportunities to treat diseases in 15 years time

On Friday 15th, the Spanish Nanomedicine Platform (Nanomed Spain) and the European Technology Platform on Nanomedicine presented reports on the current status of nanomedicine in Spain and the strategic lines of action at European level to promote R+D in this field.

Both organizations coincide in emphasising that nanotechnology may have direct applications in medicine by contributing to improvements in health and quality of life, and moreover at a reduced cost. The Spanish report, in addition, estimates that the advances currently being developed in this field will reach the health system in the next fifteen years.

However, in its report entitled “Strategic vision of nanomedicine in Spain”, the Nanomed Spain Platform states that nanomedicine is currently in embryonary stage and that it is necessary to strengthen an industrial sector that allows scientific and technological advances to be transferred to specific applications in the health system.

Josep Samitier, coordinator of the Nanomed Spain Platform, affirmed that “Spain can play a relevant role in the development of this field because it has cutting-edge research centres, industrial and pharmaceutical sectors that are interested in using new technologies, as well as a health care system based on a network of hospitals that performs international basic and clinical research”.

According to the report by the Nanomed Spain Platform, as an innovative sector, nanomedicine requires larges investments, will be developed towards applications which yield a significant benefit and in addition, will respond to the health care issues which until now have not been addressed because of scientific or financial limitations.

In this regard, in its Strategic Research Agenda (SRA), the European Technology Platform on Nanomedicine has defined the priority lines of development in European R+D in nanomedicine for the coming years. These lines focus on cardiovascular diseases, cancer, muscular-skeletal disorders, neurodegenerative diseases, diabetes and bacterial and viral infectious diseases, such as AIDS. According to this report, these priorities have been established because they produce a considerable decrease in the quality of life, have a high social and economic cost and because nanotechnology can contribute to the healing process.

These two reports coincide in three application lines for nanomedicine: diagnosis, drug delivery and regenerative medicine. In the first field, devices or sensors will be developed that allow a faster and more reliable diagnosis in early stages of the disease and at a low cost in most cases, for example, cancer.

Regarding drug delivery, nanotechnological advances will allow the effective introduction of the so-called “personalized therapy”, such as administration of a small dose of a drug to obtain maximum effect; the reduction of secondary effects by means of drugs that act only on the therapeutic target; or the development of new more effective administration routes which are comfortable for the patient, such as the nasal administration of insulin. In this regard, for cancer patients, drug delivery systems will be directed exclusively to cancerous cells, thereby avoiding the secondary effects of present chemotherapy protocols.

Another field for the application of nanotechnology is regenerative medicine, in which it will allow the substitution of cells or tissues that do not work for equivalent ones that do, for example in the case of patients with degenerative diseases; as well as tissue regeneration. In the case of cardiovascular diseases, nanotechnology offers the opportunity to develop intelligent nanobiomaterials for the regeneration of tissues, for example in the case of myocardial infarction.

Susana Herráiz | alfa
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