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Nanobiotechnology September 2019 Viewpoints

Technology Analyst: Ivona Bradley

Nanoethics for Nanomedicine

Why is this topic significant?

More specific regulations for nanomedicine and public education and acceptance than currently exist may enable scientists to tackle the ethical issues of nanomedicine and have a knock-on effect on the development of the industry.

Description

According to Grand View Research analysts, the global nanomedicine market is growing, owing to an increase in demand from the pharmaceutical industry, and by 2025 could reach $350 billion—more than double the value estimated by analysts in 2016. The ability to control the characteristics of nanomaterials—including their composition, size, biodegradability, morphology, and surface functionality—enables research teams to design nanomaterials specifically for medical applications and personalized treatments. However, many questions remain about the ethical issues of nanomedicine. Scientists are looking to highlight the role ethics plays in shaping legislation, organizational policy, and public discussion about nanomedicine. For example, in the April 2019 AMA Journal of Ethics, scientists suggest that physicians should explain to patients the clinical and ethical details of clinical trials for nanomedicine to avoid therapeutic misconception while promoting realism and countering hype. Physicians should also provide guidance about nanomedicine that would enable patients to give informed consent.

Implications

Major concerns of clinical-trial participants are likely to be regulation and safety of new nanomedicines, including reassurances about product efficacy. Closely aligned with these concerns are also concerns addressing the potential for a new nanotechnology to have both good and bad applications for regenerative medicine. Many patients may see the use of regenerative medicine to treat near-term clinical cases as worthy of funding but may be cautious about its potential for use in human improvement.

Public perception and acceptance of nanomaterials are of paramount importance in the success of a nanomedicine. Pressure may continue to grow for players and regulators to test, monitor, and determine their safety. In many circumstances, nanomaterials and nanomedicine remain relatively costly technologies without a well-established track record for reliability or success.

Impacts/Disruptions

By maintaining communication with and educating the public, scientists could foster a degree of trust that will make the transition of any nanomedicine from research to commercial status much easier. Consumers could be more likely to accept nanomedicine products that they have followed and understood throughout their development than to accept products that they neither know nor understand and for which they must place their trust in companies and regulatory authorities. For example, founded or not on the pharmaceutical industry's business practices, the public's trust in pharmaceutical companies has always been somewhat lacking. Balanced regulations are likely to reassure the public of a nanodrug's health safety while not stifling the development of the product. A degree of transparency in both scientific development and the regulatory process coupled with public education and discussion is key to consumer acceptance of nanotechnologies in health care, and private companies should be aware of it when introducing new products and marketing existing nanotechnology-derived therapies. Early warnings of how and when to move ahead of the curve on ethical issues may enable companies to create new business opportunities.

Scale of Impact

  • Low
  • Medium
  • High
The scale of impact for this topic is: High

Time of Impact

  • Now
  • 5 Years
  • 10 Years
  • 15 Years
The time of impact for this topic is: Now to 10 Years

Opportunities in the following industry areas:

Nanomedicine, health care, therapeutics, nanomaterials, pharmaceuticals

Relevant to the following Explorer Technology Areas:

Nanotechnology for Advancing Cardiology

By Madeeha Uppal
Uppal is a technology analyst with Strategic Business Insights.

Why is this topic significant?

Maintaining a healthy heart at every age is important not just for longevity but also for retaining a good quality of life. Nanotechnology has the potential to provide solutions for early intervention and better treatment of cardiac maladies.

Description

Nanomedicine is advancing rapidly from laboratories into trials, particularly in the fields of cancer diagnosis and treatment. A growing field within nanomedicine involves the research and development of sensors for monitoring and therapies for improving cardiovascular health. Recently, researchers at the Tyndall National Institute received a $4.5 million grant for development of a wearable sensor. The scientists use 2D nanomaterials to create an efficient sensor that can monitor a wearer's electrocardiogram, oxygen flow, respiration, and temperature. The sensor wirelessly transmits the data to the user's physician in real time. For power, the sensor converts body heat into electricity and also comprises a printed battery for energy storage. Researchers at the Center for Emergent Matter Science in Japan have also developed a wearable device for monitoring the electrical activity of the heart. The device includes organic electrochemical transistors and a nanostructured organic photovoltaic material to provide power.

Monitoring the heart's health for early signs of disease will help catch and treat conditions early with better patient outcomes. But researchers are also using nanotechnology to improve cardiovascular treatments (for example some nanocoated stents are now entering late-stage clinical trials) and to create various drug-delivery systems for cardiac medications. Scientists at Northwestern University have developed a method of delivering peptide-based compounds by inserting minimally invasive catheters into patients' hearts after myocardial infarction. The compound self-assembles into a nanofiber matrix at the site of scar tissue to assist healing.

Implications

According to the World Health Organization, cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of mortality around the world. Deaths from CVD are on the rise. However, early intervention, including changing an individual's lifestyle and diet, can inhibit or even prevent the progression of CVD. Currently, electrocardiogram monitors are available for investigative monitoring at the request of doctors. However, these monitors do not include wireless transmission of data for real-time analysis and are unavailable for apparently healthy individuals. The monitor under development at Tyndall will particularly benefit individuals who do not present with symptoms such as stress or hypertension. Continuous monitoring will enable doctors to identify abnormalities in cardiac function and potentially provide treatment before major cardiac problems occur.

Treatment of cardiovascular disease involves surgery and drug therapy for life. However, surgery has accompanying risks, and many cardiac drugs have significant adverse side effects and impair patients' quality of life. Development of nanotechnology-based therapies (such as novel drugs, drug-delivery mechanisms, and stents) has the potential to provide improved treatments with fewer side effects.

Impacts/Disruptions

Wearable devices for tracking health are becoming increasingly popular, and analysts at Report and Data expect the market to reach $27.5 billion by 2026. User comfort and convenience, low noise-to-signal ratios, and size and price of devices will be important factors in wearables' becoming mainstream. Integrating power sources and energy-storage into wearables obviates the use of external power sources, which helps keep the device lightweight and compact and thus suitable for continual wear and also cost-effective by removing the need to replace spent batteries.

Scale of Impact

  • Low
  • Medium
  • High
The scale of impact for this topic is: Medium

Time of Impact

  • Now
  • 5 Years
  • 10 Years
  • 15 Years
The time of impact for this topic is: 5 Years to 10 Years

Opportunities in the following industry areas:

Diagnostics, health care, pharmaceuticals, drug-delivery, big data, cardiovascular health

Relevant to the following Explorer Technology Areas: