Brief Overview of Nanotechnology

Nanotechnology involves utilization of man-made products no larger than 1-1000 nm (i.e. a few atoms to smaller than a single cell). A dictionary definition elucidates the scale of this field and allows us to define that nanoscale particles are in the 10"9 m dimension range, consistent with the magnitude of most synthetic nanoparticles to date. For a real perspective, the width of a DNA molecule is 2.5 nm; cell membranes are 6-10 nm thick; and most proteins are between 5 and 20 nm in diameter. Therefore, most conventional molecular research is already proceeding in nanoscale dimensions.

Nanoscience has developed its own language unique to the discipline. Nanomedicine relates to medical research and intervention on the nanoscale. It involves the monitoring, repair, construction, and control of human biological systems at the molecular level, using engineered nanodevices and nanostructures. The National Institutes of Health Bioengineering Consortium, or BECON, held a symposium in 2000 titled "Nanoscience and Technology: Shaping Biomedical Research".4 At the conference, eight areas of nanoscience and nanotechnology were addressed that were believed to be most pertinent to research in biomedicine. These areas included synthesis and use of nanostructures, applications of nanotechnology to therapy, biomimetic nanostructures, biological nanostructures, the electronic-biology interface, devices for early detection of disease, tools for the study of single molecules, and tissue engineering.5 Such a wide ranging portfolio of research improvement must have multidisciplinary collaboration to maximize the potential benefits in clinical medicine.

Urology as a specialty is in a key position to benefit from nanotechnology. The combination of functional abnormalities (e.g. overactive bladder), reconstruction (e.g. hypospadias repair, bladder reconstruction), and oncology (e.g., staging of prostate or penile cancer) all lend themselves to the development of these novel technologies. Currently, the three main areas of integration of synthetic nano-technology with potential availability to urologists are either for the delivery of pharmaceuticals, for tissue engineering, or as an adjunct to conventional imaging. A summary of the current nanotechnology development in urology is included in Table 13.1.

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Dealing With Erectile Dysfunction

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