Much of the predicted future of neurotechnology is grounded in the continuing success and development of nanotechnology. This field is broad, for sure, and is even a primary target of the US Federal Government (see the NNI).
A particularly critical aspect, however, considers the development of nanoparticles. A great deal of research is already underway on developing very tiny capsules that will one day float around in our bodies and drop off exact doses of drugs to a specific cell. Or, pint-sized nanobots with full on-board electronics will maneuver through our circulatory system looking for tissues to repair, cells to manipulate, and observations to report back to the host.
The prospects for this sort of technology might be exciting, and even a little scary. But, what is really important to think about right now is how will the human body actually get along with the nano-invaders? Will our immune system run in overdrive to try to stop the little buggers? Will we have to force an evolutionary leap to develop new symbiotic relationships with metallic pellets that are only just trying to be beneficial to our survival?
Three researchers from North Carolina State University are addressing this important issue that must be resolved before any real human trials of nano-particle infestations are implemented. Dr. Jim Riviere, Dr. Nancy Monteiro-Riviere, and Dr. Xin-Rui Xia are collaborating to figure out a way to pre-screen a nanoparticle’s characteristics in order to predict how it will behave once inside the body.
As soon as any foreign object slips into the human body, our sophisticated immune system kicks into high gear. Everything that is native to a body is essentially key-coded with a biological pass that tells any immune response that “I’m OK to be here, thank you!” If something inside isn’t coded properly, then a rapid kill response is launched through a biochemical cascade of the complement system (learn more), which attacks the surface of unrecognized cells and objects with a variety of binding proteins.
This is certainly a natural response that we would not want to occur if we were voluntarily injecting ourselves with nanobots. The brain might be able to consciously will our hands and feet to move as we see fit, but our species has not yet figured out how to mentally control our internal processes (or, can we?). Until thought-invoked immune suppression is possible, it will be more useful to clearly understand the biochemistry of the interactions between nanoparticles and our tissues, and use this characterization to correctly modify the nano-stuff to stay functional while surfing in the blood stream.
“Predicting how nanoparticles will react in the human body” :: PhysOrg.com :: August, 15, 2010 :: [ READ ]