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'Nano' World and Ayurveda
âNanoâ is a popular word, which means âdwarfâ in Greek, corresponding numerically 10-9th of a unit (e.g. meter). Recent scientific literature points to the possibility of exploiting the goodness of nanoscale for the betterment of mankind. Clearly the scientistâs ânano-worldâ is giving lot of hope (and sometimes hype) but mostly unknown to the common people.
Nanomaterials are regular structural assembly of atoms and molecules in the size range 1-100 nm. They portray remarkably distinguishing physical properties, yet are easy to synthesize and manipulate. As a result, materials of this size are popular in a very wide array of applications and are being used in different sectors starting from healthcare to construction and electronics. Nanotechnology based cosmetics, sunscreen, shampoo are already in the market. Better batteries, improved chips, technologically advanced electronic equipments, water purifier have already started appearing in the market. Though great strides have already been made in the utilization of nanomaterials in diverse fields, the biggest scope for the application and development of nanomaterials lie in the field of health and medicine.
The first and foremost implication of nanomaterials is in the field of therapeutics and diagnostics. Nano-formulated Gold has been used inside the human body since long time. Recently scientists have shown sound-wave aided specific location detection and demolish of solid tumors in human body using different metallic and polymeric nanoparticles including Gold. Bismuth-nanoparticles are in research as âradiation concentratorâ in radiation therapy for tumor abolishment while the healthy tissues remains unaffected. Similarly, infrared light from a laser can be converged to only tumorous region with the help of nano assemblies. This technique has shown success in treating breast cancer. In this aspect, magnetic nanoparticles has shown efficacy in killing cancer cells by using the magnetic field.
Nanoformulation in medicine is mainly used as a delivery vehicle. The payloads are wide; starting from small molecules, cytotoxic drugs, peptides, proteins, gene, growth factors till nucleic acids like siRNA. In a deadly disease like cancer, the chance of off-target toxicity is reduced to a greater extent by using a nanoparticle-encapsulated drug. In case of a solid tumor, drug-containing nanoparticles in the size range (60-200 nm) can preferentially âhome intoâ the leaky tumorous tissues more effectively as a result of enhanced permeability and retention (EPR) effect. The drug-loaded nanoparticles effectively âsneakâ into tumors instead of other healthy tissues. This reduces the impending off-target toxicity like nausea, hair loss, kidney failure etc. and adds value to the quality of life for a terminally ill cancer patient. Some particular nanoparticles (micelles, liposomes) with a PEG coating reduce the rate of opsonization (being âchewed upâ by a cell) thereby increasing circulation time in the body. As a result, for a terminally ill patient the time duration between two consecutive applications of drugs increases to a greater extent; which again has the promise of a better quality life. Active targeting of tumors can also be achieved by tethering tumor specific groups (peptides, proteins, antibodies, oligosaccharides) to the nanoparticle opting for a better âhomingâ into tumors thereby reducing usual side effects. Drugs like AbraxaneTM, DoxylÂ®, EmendÂ® are some examples of chemotherapeutic drugs which are already in the market.
Nanoparticles are widely used in imaging and detection. They are able to portray specificity and sensitivity of diagnostic imaging by allowing the non-invasive and quantitative detection of specific biomolecules in living subjects. Like iron oxide nanoparticles due to their âsuperparamagneticâ properties can be imaged after selectively locating the tumors. Circulating cancer cells can also be detected by a nanoparticle embedded probes to check the possibility of âmetastasisâ. âBiomarkersâ attached to nanomaterials fish out cancerous region in the body with excellent selectivity leaving other parts of the body unaffected. Gadolinium is a great MRI contrast agent that is being widely used. Some nanoparticle based bioimaging products which are available in the market are Qdot Nanocrystals, TriLiteâ¢ Technology.
Tissue Engineering is another branch of medicine, which deals with the repair, wound healing and replacement of a non-functional organ. Nanotechnology comes in use here as well. Nanofibers of biodegradable and biocompatible polymers are possible which can be of huge use in surgery,i.e.for wound healing. Nanofibers made from different materials can act as artificial cartilage inside living body. Moreover, nanomaterials can be of use in artificial growth of cartilage, blood vessels, bones, muscles and veins. âNanorobotsâ are in research that can recreate a cell artificially by chromosome replacement therapy.
Nanoparticles have shown efficacy in antimicrobial and antibacterial treatments as well. Silver nanoassemblies, also known as ânanocrystalline silverâ for their unique antibacterial properties are used in surgical fields. A nanoparticle cream which contains nitric oxide gas, has shown to reduce the staph infection to a great extent. There are burn dressings that is coated with nanocapsules containing antibiotics. It reduces the chance of bacterial infection at the wounded site. There are medical gauzes containing aluminosilicate nanoparticles, which help blood clot faster in open wounds. TiMESH ActicoatÂ®, SilvaGardâ¢ Technology are related products available in the market.
Although the research community world over is making great progress using the modern synthetic tools and knowledge to make nanoparticles/nanomaterials,India has a rich legacy of the knowledge and applications of nanoparticles and materials is to be noted. For example,Ayurveda usage of Suvarna Bhasma as therapeutic agents is well established. Many archeological wonders of India such as the famous Iron pillar at Delhi has been established to be consisting of nanoalloys. Tipu Sultanâs sword is another example of Indias earliest usage of nanotechnology. While one need not be âre-toldâ of this rich heritage,but it needs to be emphasized that there is a greater need for the validation/certification of the Ayurveda route of making nanoparticles/materials by modern scientific methods if it has to gain the acceptance of wider world.It is strongly felt that in the area of health applications of nano science India can be the leader.
In conclusion, nanoparticles has huge potential in healthcare industry. Many of the applications described here are not yet open to the market, especially to the third world. There are common questions of biocompatibility,toxicity and safety on the nanoparticle itself (without a payload). But these are nothing but huge molecular assembly and most of them (only after they are properly tried, tested and approved by appropriate authorities) are to biodegrade in its due course of time. So there should not be any mental blockage towards the use of a nano inspired medicine and we look forward towards a healthy future using nanomedicines. These nano medicines are made by the âtraditionalâ ayurvedic routes is to be appreciated.However the validation/certification of the Ayurveda route of making nanoparticles/materials by modern scientific methods is the need of the hour.This approach will be beneficial to Ayurveda for gaining acceptance of the wider world.