Nanotechnology refers to the creation of functional material devices and systems through the control of matter on an atomic or molecular scale - the nanometer scale (1 nm = 1 x 10-9 m). It is at this size that the majority of biologic molecules inside living cells operate.

The prefix "nano" actually originates from the Greek word nanos, meaning "little old man" or "dwarf' and the strict definition of nanotechnology is the study, design, creation, synthesis, manipulation, and application of functional materials, devices, and systems through control of matter at the nanometer scale. Nanomedicine, an offshoot of nanotechnology, refers to the highly specific monitoring, repair, construction, and control of human biological systems at the molecular level, using engineered nanodevices and nanostructures. 1 ,2 Over the next decade, it is widely expected that nanotechnology and nanomedicine will have important and innovative applications in clinical research and medicine, as well as contributing $1 trillion to the global economy.3

Preliminary designs of nanoparticles, such as artificial red blood cells, white cells, and killer cells that can identify a particular bacteria, or cancer cells, have already been developed, and it is anticipated that nanotechnology will allow clinicians to intervene at the cellular and molecular level of any disease process in the future.

Department of Urology, Wrexham Maelor Hospital, Wrexham, Clwyd, Wales, UK

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