Understanding Nanomedicine:  An Introductory Textbook
By Rob Burgess, PhD
Copyright 2011. Pan Stanford Publishing.  All Rights Reserved.
To the Professor

As I researched the currently available textbooks covering the basic principles, applications and promise of nanotechnology as it applies to medicine, I noted a dearth of introductory material tailored specifically for students.  While a number of comprehensive books exist outlining the promise of the nanosciences as they apply to medical applications, including most recent advances in medical research, these texts fail to properly introduce the student to nanoscience and nanotechnology as it applies first to biology and to potential therapeutics and diagnostics applications.  Thus this text is devoted to the basic principles of nanotechnology, focusing on nanomaterials and nanoparticles, as with respect to the whole of nanoscience, these sectors hold the most promise for the future of medicine.  It is tailored towards real-world applications of medical nanotechnologies with a heavy emphasis on specific examples from the existing literature available in this area.  It is NOT (with the exception of Chapter 10) a compilation of thoughts and essays describing what may occur in the realm of nanomedicine in the distant future.  The book is written at an introductory level to allow the student to have a firm grasp of the principles of nanotechnology first, followed by the relationship between nanoscience and biology, and ending with the majority of the text outlining medical applications.  As much of the content is not considered to be central scientific dogma but rather exciting yet preliminary research, the text is often written in review format, giving full credit to researchers for their published findings and citing appropriate scientific articles.  As the scientific discipline of medical nanoscience matures it is anticipated that this text will mature into a more basic and fundamental description of the field as is the case for biology or chemistry.


I have organized the contents of this book to emphasize the basic principles of nanotechnology and how they might apply to the betterment of mankind through an improvement in human health.  I point out that nanoscience, like all disciplines, is not an exact science, and that much of the material presented is based on hypothesis and backed up by experimental results.  A great deal of emphasis is placed on the published experimental research and results of key leaders in the field.  To accomplish this task, I have included:


  • A comprehensive description of the basic principles and definitions of nanoscience and nanotechnology.


  • A breakdown in the origins and chemical makeup of some of the most widely used nanomaterials and nanoparticles in medical research.


  • A concentrated focus on detailing the relationship between nanoscience and biology.


  • Descriptions of and principles behind the most high profile nanotechnologies, nanomaterials and nanoparticles currently studied for applications in medicine.


  • An extensive review of the top five areas of therapeutic focus involving nanotechnology.


  • An entire section on in vivo targeting of nanoparticles utilizing cell type-specific ligands.


  • A breakdown of the principles behind the use of nanoparticles in thermal ablation therapy, emphasizing the most high-profile published examples.


  • An overview of the use of nanoparticles to deliver drugs in vivo.


  • Descriptive explanations behind the principles and detail on the use of nanomaterials and nanoparticles as contrast agents in medical diagnostic applications.

  • A glimpse into the future of nanomedicine and what the student can expect may evolve regarding nanotechnology based diagnostics and therapeutics, finishing with the intriguing concept of the "Singularity."


This book is organized to naturally transition from a basic understanding of the principles, including physics, behind, for example, nanoparticles and nanomaterials to how these principles might be exploited and used to treat or at the very least efficiently diagnose human disease or anomalies.  Each chapter introduces topics and vocabulary at a very basic level and transitions to more advanced coverage as the student's knowledge level matures.


Chapter 1 begins with an overview of the origins of nanoscience and nanotechnology and progresses to explain the physical principles behind nanostructures and nanotools.  Although not related to medicine, industrial applications of both nanostructures and nanotools are cited as examples to give the student a firm understanding of not only the benefits of nanoscience but how the physics of nanotechnology can be exploited for gain.  The chapter finishes with a shift in focus towards the relationship between nanoscience and biology thus introducing the student to the major focus of this book.


In Chapter 2 I home in on the basic potential for nanotechnology, centered around nanoparticles and nanomaterials, to impact therapeutics, specifically that in relation to cancer.  A breakdown in the types of nanoparticles currently being explored for cancer treatment primarily via hyperthermia is presented, with specifics on different modes of action.  In this section I describe the physics, principles and therapeutic concepts behind the use of nanoparticles, combined with external fields for thermal ablation.  This is followed by a comprehensive breakdown of targeting nanoparticle to specific sites for tumor cell ablation outlining targeting agents and targeting moiety attachment.  The chapter finishes with an overview of the use of nanoparticles for anticancer drug delivery, describing both locally and intravenously applied therapeutic platforms.


Chapter 3 focuses on nanotechnology-driven tissue engineering applications such as scaffolds for tissue repair.  It begins with a breakdown of the most high-profile types of nanofibers used in scaffold development and details their compositions.  This includes both natural and synthetic examples.  Techniques for the synthesis of certain nanofiber types are described such as electrospinning and the chapter concludes with real-world examples of nanofiber applications in tissue engineering such as for bone and vasculature repair.


Chapter 4 covers the impact that nanotechnology is beginning to have on neuroscience and the treatment of neurodegenerative disease Examples of neuronal/neural matrices based on nanomaterials are cited and described.    This is followed by a special section on how nanomaterials might effectively address the age-old problem of therapeutic delivery across the blood-brain barrier.  Specific examples of nanomaterial/nanoparticle strategies for BBB crossing are described and backed up by in vivo data from a number of researchers.  Chapter 4 also cites examples of the neuroprotective effects of some nanoparticle systems such as those designed to be anti-oxidants and finishes with by describing some intriguing examples of combination nanoparticle/cell carrier strategies for applications in clinical neuroscience.


Surgery is perhaps the oldest form of medicine known to man and thus I have dedicated an entire chapter to nanotechnology's emerging impact on this field.  Chapter 5 begins with a description of the need for new biocompatible biomedical implant coatings.  This is followed by a description of several nanotechnology-based implant coatings currently under development including, for example, those of nanostructured hydroxyapatite and metalloceramic origins.   Surgery is addressed next with an explanation of the need to better minimize surgical damage and illustrations of nanotechnologies to address this issue such as nanopulses and next-generation nanocoatings for surgical instruments.  Next the chapter addresses the need for better wound healing technologies and outlines examples of how nanotechnology is already making significant inroads into this area with applications such as nanosutures, nanofiber-based bandages and antibiotic nanocoatings.  Chapter 5 ends with a look at laser- and non-laser-based intracellular nanosurgery and how it is impacting basic biomedical research and may impact therapeutics in the future.


Chapter 6 tackles both the current potential and limitations of existing cell culture methods and how nanotechnology may provide new avenues for growing cells for research purposes as well as cell transplant therapeutics.  A brief history of cell culture is given and the most popular cells for manipulation in vitro are described.  The chapter's emphasis is on the development of new cell culture matrices that more effectively mimic the natural in vivoin vivo mimicry.  Examples of nanomaterial-based scaffolds for cell culture are cited including those of both natural and synthetic origin.  Techniques for the efficient cellularization of nanoscaffolds are also described and the chapter concludes with some unique applications of titanium and magnetic nanoparticle systems for cell culture. environment.  A comparison of 2D vs. 3D cell culture methods is made illustrating the advantages of 3D for both scale and


Chapter 7 is therapeutically-centric and focuses on the use of nanoparticles as drug delivery vehicles.  The basic principles behind both active and passive drug delivery are outlined and this is followed by a thorough description of synthetic and natural nanomaterials currently under study as drug delivery platforms.  Examples include the widely studied PLGA and PEG synthetic polymers along with some controversial delivery systems such as fullerenes.  It concludes with a section listing and describing naturally-occurring nanomaterials used or under study for drug delivery such as liposomes and gelatin.


Aside from therapeutic applications, diagnostics is clearly the area of medicine where nanotechnology holds the most promise.  Chapter 8 is dedicated to nanotechnology-driven advancements in diagnostics that may allow for earlier and/or more efficient and sensitive detection of disease.  The chapter begins with a description of and illustrations of examples in in vitro-based nanodiagnostics such as nanobiochips and nanobiosensors.  Nanolaser spectroscopy and nanoproteomics are also covered in this section.  A detailed breakdown of the most widely studied nanotechnologies and methods for in vivo nanodiagnostics follows the in vitro section.  Gold and magnetic nanoparticles acted upon by external fields for imagery are cited as examples and intriguing research into the use of liposomes and micelles to deliver metal nanoparticles for in vivo diagnostics concludes the chapter.


In Chapter 9 I have chosen to focus on governmental influence on nanotechnology and, where possible, emphasize the effects it is beginning to have on the emerging field of nanomedicine.  The chapter is broken down into two primary sections.  The first illustrates government funding and promotion of advancements in nanotechnology.  The second seeks to give the student a thorough understanding of government's attempts at regulating this rapidly maturing area of science.  I have delineated the growing influence of major world governments on nanotechnology, and have completed both sections with examples of globally and internationally-coordinated efforts at impacting nanotechnology in general and nanomedicine in particular.


The book concludes with a glimpse into the conceptual future of nanomedicine in Chapter 10.  Here I take many of the more futuristic concepts and examples regarding medical applications and advancements of nanotechnology from leading nanoscientists and theoreticists around the world and describe them in enough detail to capture and peak the student's interest and imagination in what may lie ahead for the future of diagnosis, therapy and nanotechnology itself.


It should be noted that at the end of each chapter I have drafted a set of key terms in the form of a glossary.  In choosing the terms I am attempting to drive home the most important points made within that chapter's text.  In addition, I have also listed a review section of questions at the end of each chapter that are designed to provoke the student's intellect and grasp of the contents of that particular chapter.  The questions are meant to be thought-provoking and many may be answered correctly in a number of different ways given the essay format.  The answers to these questions can be found at www.understandingnano.org .  It is up to the discretion of the professor whether or not to utilize these additions to each chapter, but I am convinced that if the glossary and review sections are properly studied the student will have a firm understanding of the most critical concepts from each chapter and section of this book.


As always, I am most certainly appreciative of comments and criticisms regarding the content and format of Understanding Nanomedicine:  An Introductory Textbook.  If you have input or suggestions pertaining to this book I'd love to hear from you as these will most certainly impact future editions.




                                                                               Rob Burgess