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Year : 2011  |  Volume : 3  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 181  

The era of nanomedicine

IBB-Institute for Biotechnology and Bioengineering, CBME-Centre for Molecular and Structural Biomedicine, Faculty of Sciences and Technology, University of Algarve, 8005-139 Faro, Portugal

Date of Web Publication12-May-2011

Correspondence Address:
Ana Grenha
IBB-Institute for Biotechnology and Bioengineering, CBME-Centre for Molecular and Structural Biomedicine, Faculty of Sciences and Technology, University of Algarve, 8005-139 Faro
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0975-7406.80757

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How to cite this article:
Grenha A. The era of nanomedicine. J Pharm Bioall Sci 2011;3:181

How to cite this URL:
Grenha A. The era of nanomedicine. J Pharm Bioall Sci [serial online] 2011 [cited 2022 Jan 25];3:181. Available from:

The Journal of Pharmacy and Bioallied Sciences is now in its seventh issue and the manner in which it has been paved so far, it is possible to find some studies on nanomedicine. This term encompasses the applications of nanotechnology in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases, and comprises an emerging field that is believed to have the potential to revolutionize individual health in the present century. The outstanding approach of nanomedicine is that it offers the delivery of potential drugs, which were previously beyond the capacities of microscale technologies, due to specific biological barriers. Currently, several nanotherapeutics are approved or are undergoing clinical trials, and the application of nanotechnologies is expected to extend to many more commercial products in the near future.

Particularly in the case of administration of biopharmaceuticals, a group of molecules that include proteins, peptides, genes and vaccines, discovery has been accentuated in recent years. Nanomedicines have been referred to as the real tools to improve delivery efficacy. In fact, these are not exactly 'new' therapeutic molecules, because hormones, serum proteins and enzymes have been finding therapeutic applications ever since the commercial introduction of insulin in 1923. However, recent progress in biotechnology, biochemical synthesis and molecular biology, together with a better understanding of the role of biopharmaceuticals in physiopathology, has attracted increasing interest over the potentialities of these biodrugs. Actually, some of them have successfully entered the market and play leading roles alongside other established therapies. Nevertheless, severe difficulties have been generally limiting their effective application, as these biomacromolecules exhibit two main properties that hamper their systemic administration. These are related to their high molecular weight and strong hydrophilic character, which pose a real challenge to the pharmaceutical industry in overcoming the successive limitations imposed by their physicochemical properties.

As for recognizing the need to provide noninvasive administration alternatives for new molecules entering the market, most of the academic and industrial efforts are being directed toward the development of needle-free options. It is exactly in this sphere that nanomedicines find their great pathway. With an increased surface-to-volume ratio, they display improved drug loading capacity, as well as evidence the ability to increase drug absorption by reducing the epithelial resistance to transport and inclusive they have shown, on occasions, the capacity to carry the encapsulated drugs through the epithelium.

The first generation of nanomedicines, mainly liposomes and nanoparticles, has been entering routine clinical use for almost 20 years and many individuals have already benefited from their potentialities. Nevertheless, as the scope of nanotechnology applications in biomedicine evolves and nanostructures become more complex, a concern is emerging and gaining even more importance every day, which is related to the risk-benefit balance. In fact, Kipen and Laskin have stated that smaller is not always better: Nanotechnology yields nanotoxicology, and although this is not necessarily true, as there is a lack of toxicological data on engineered nanomedicines that does not allow for an adequate risk assessment, it is becoming clear that new generation nanomedicines must build on lessons learnt from the past. The event of nanotoxicology is growing in importance these days and many efforts are being directed to this topic, in order to clarify the adequacy and safety of nanoscaled materials. It is well-recognized that the physicochemical properties of materials can alter dramatically on the nanoscopic scale. As such, it is very important to recall that nanomedicines have new and unique biological properties, thus generating potential different risks as compared to raw materials with the same chemistry, therefore, demanding careful assessment of unexpected toxicities and biological interactions. In fact, with a multitude of opportunities for nanomaterial use in pharmaceutical and medical applications, a thorough understanding of the associated systemic toxicity is critical. A demonstration of the safety the nanomedicines is indeed the necessary step for the great achievement of making stable effective drugs from unstable biopharmaceuticals.

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