After alighting on some interesting references (here and here and here) I found out that the term refers to the precise assembly of atoms or molecules in novel cellular or subcellular forms. While the term in a medical context conjures up an image of weenie machines doing good stuff one chromosome at a time, it usually pertains to old substances in new architectures. One example is arraying silver (which is toxic to bacteria) on plastic catheters to prevent infection. Other novel atomic-level designs of injectable lipids, proteins and even DNA have the potential to deliver “payloads” (for example, chemotherapy) that bind to biologically defined targets. That means a tracer could be used to torpedo a hiding tumor cell or signal the presence of an otherwise undetectable protein or cell-type. It appears earliest iterations coming to market will be categorized less as “devices” and more as pharmaceutical agents.
The disease management blog was a little disappointed, believing we were on the verge of nanogadgets. Alas, there are few useful reports of “nanorobots,” “nanodevices,” and “nanostructures” (coupled with nanodisease nanomanagement of course) swarming through the bodies of the chronically ill, repairing telomeres, dissolving atheroma and resuscitating exhausted beta cells. I’m afraid this atomic-level stuff hasn’t bubbled up to our level of populations…. yet.
Do not despair, however, because the disease management blog discovered ‘nano’ is a very cool prefix to use among your colleagues, especially if you combine it with lots of other opaque futuristic lingo. Consider the otherwise staid observation:
“Advances in medicine will lead to new diagnosis and treatment.”
Thanks to the nanoglitter of this new nanojargon, you can now confidently declare:
“Advances in nanomedicine will lead to quantum leaps in proteogenomic multi-scale microsystem technology.”
As an added bonus, the 'nano' prefix is a useful item to keep in the populationate tool box.
Postscript. My spouse has periodically given invaluable input into the content and editing of the disease management blog, for which I am forever grateful. Her shrewd response to this particular post was to ask if the return on investment from the time and effort to write it should be measured in nanodollars. I told her the check will come in a really really small envelope.