The importance of nursing as a profession cannot be gainsaid as far as enhancing the quality of services provided in healthcare institutions is concerned. Underlining the fundamental roles that they play in the healthcare sector is the fact that they communicate with the clients, other healthcare professionals, support persons, as well as individuals in the community. Their work is spread out across being caregivers, teachers, communicators, client advocates, counselors, managers, leaders, and even case managers. Like every other profession, nursing has underlined the importance of incorporating technology in the conduction of the varied activities. It goes without saying that technology goes a long way in enhancing the quality and efficiency of services in the healthcare industry (Ball and Kathryn 41). Varied forms of technological advancements have been crafted in the recent times, with nanotechnology coming as one of the most promising one.
Nanotechnology and nanoscience refers to the study, as well as application of extremely small things that may be used in other science fields such as biology, engineering, material science, physics and chemistry. The Merriam Webster dictionary defines nanotechnology as a science that deals with the manipulation of materials on a molecular and atomic scale in an effort to build microscopic devices such as robots. Its application revolves around the capacity to see, as well as control these individual atoms and molecules so as to achieve a certain objective. Nanotechnology comes as a rapidly advancing area of science, with development being seen in an array of sectors (Allhoff and Patrick 43). The utility of the nanotechnology resides in the extremely small nature of the nanoparticles, which allows for enhanced interaction with other substances at the subatomic and atomic levels. These particles do not behave like liquids, gases or solids, and they come with distinctive electronic and mechanical properties (Ball and Kathryn 43). Nanotechnology has gained widespread application in the form of nanorobots (molecular robots) that can be implanted in the human body so as to monitor and alter physiological functions, drug delivery, disease alterations, enhancing cellular repair, as well as counteracting the process of aging, among other uses.
One of the most fundamental applications of nanotechnology is in the treatment of cancer. Currently, there are more than 20 nanotechnology drugs that are in clinical trials for varied types of cancers that range from blood cancers to solid tumors. Varied nanomaterials have gained immense use in medicine. These include nanoshells, which incorporate a core of silica, as well as a metallic outer layer, and have the capacity to be decorated using molecular probes for cancer-related compounds (Allhoff and Patrick 45). Nanoparticles are used in targeting tumor and other cells for treatment and imaging, while quantam dots are nanoparticles that are created from semiconductor materials that have the capacity to be connected to antibodies or other molecules that have the capacity to bind to a target (Murray 38). Fullerenes have the exceptional strength and distinctive thermal and electrical properties, while nanowires have diameters in the nanometer range, which have been valued for their electronic and structural properties. Other nanomaterials used in medicine may include dendrimers, liposomes and micelles.
Nanotechnology has been seen as extremely useful thanks to the complexity of cancer. It is worth noting that cancerous tumors are heterogeneous and are persistently changing with time. The technology has the capacity to enhance precision and control. Scholars have also noted that nanotechnology has the capacity to enhance the diagnosis monitoring of cancer through enabling high-throughput detection pertaining to complex molecular signatures, as well as enhancing the contrast of imaging (Allhoff and Patrick 47). Nanochips, for instance, may be used in separating proteins in the blood by charge and size, thereby fostering the identification of the molecular signature of cancers in an individual patient.
In addition, magnetic iron-based nanoparticles that have fluorescent tags may be used in imaging, where they would act as improved magnetic resonance contrast agents, thereby being used for MR-based assays (Ball and Kathryn 45). Currently, there are clinical trials on progress that use silica-gold nanoshells as real-time molecular probes in breast tissues that have the capacity to over-express HER2, the breast cancer biomarker.
In addition, nanotechnology has gained immense use in cancer treatment. Nanotechnology has the potential to enhance precision pertaining to targeting the appropriate or desired cells using an anti-cancer drug, thereby reducing the undesirable side effects through the reduction of systemic spread throughout the body (Allhoff and Patrick 56). Scholars and researchers have noted that nanomedicines used in the treatment of ovarian and breast cancer encase the conventional or typical cytotoxic drug such as liposome nanoparticles and paclitaxel in albumin, thereby hindering the release of their contents until such a time when they get to the target cells, thereby reducing the destruction that such medications have on the healthy cells (Allhoff and Patrick 76). One of the key benefits pertaining to the use of nanomedicine in cancer treatment is the fact that the maximum tolerated dose for the drugs would be far much higher in instances where it is encased in a targeted nanoparticle. Studies have outlined the fact that tumor necrosis factors (TNF) can be administered safely at high doses to melanoma patients in instances where it is incorporated in gold nanoparticles. Of particular note is the fact that tumor necrosis factor has had its use limited or restricted by the toxic reactions that it elicits.
Moreover, nanotechnology has been immensely used in the prevention of cancer. It has been noted that nanotechnology would be useful in the field of cancer prevention as far as the delivery of sufficient cancer-fighting compounds to patients in instances where those patients do not have the capacity to take in that compound in sufficiently high quantities through conventional or ordinary means. This is the case for Epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), for instance, which is a compound that is found in green tea that incorporates cancer-fighting activities but is extremely poor oral absorption (Ball and Kathryn 47). In addition, researchers have come up with a nanoparticle that has the capacity to deliver EGCG in high doses, with studies being conducted on an animal model pertaining to prostate cancer. It is worth noting that the nanoparticle-enclosed EGCG, in the animal model, induced programmed cell death, decreased the volume of the tumor and hindered the formation of new blood vessels (Ball and Kathryn 47). Of course, there is immense work that remains to be done in an effort to enhance the development and design of nanomedicines. Of particular importance is the improvement of the knowledge pertaining to the things that make up precancerous lesions, as well as the manner in which they populations that are at risk can be detected. These populations would, undoubtedly become candidates for studies pertaining to prevention using nanomedicines that are developed in such a way that they can lower the risk of cancer.
While nanotechnology has gained immense use in the treatment of cancer, there have been a number of safety issues. It is worth noting that the long-term toxicities pertaining to nanoparticles that are used in medical practice currently remain unknown. However, nanostructures have the capacity to enter into cells of organs and reside there for an undetermined period of time prior to relocating to other organs or even being excreted. All this time, it would have unknown effects on the organs with which it comes into contact. This underlines the importance of collaboration between the varied regulatory agencies in the United States to ensure that the effects are not detrimental to the health of individuals, as well as ensure that the risks are not higher than the benefits derived from the technology as far as the health of individuals is concerned (Murray 48). Indeed, the general public incorporates natural fears pertaining to nanotechnology, especially considering the numerous unknowns. In essence, it is imperative that the public receives more and improved education pertaining to the nature of nanotechnology, including the meaning of naotoxicity in food or the environment, versus the meaning that it carries in medicine and nursing (Murray 49). In this regard, it is imperative that there is increased knowledge pertaining to biodistribution, excretion, metabolism, as well as the degradation of nanomaterials, which would go a long way ion demystifying the new field especially in the eyes of the public. On the same note, it is imperative that studies are conducted on the nanoparticles that are not excreted or metabolized so as to determine the long-term effects that they have on the human body. In instances where tracking some nanoparticles in vivo is difficult as is currently the case, it is imperative that new techniques of tracking them is identified.
Murray, J. Peter. Nursing Informatics 2020: Proceedings of Ni2006 Post Congress Conference. Amsterdam: IOS Press, 2007. Print.
Allhoff, Fritz, and Patrick Lin. Nanotechnology & Society: Current and Emerging Ethical Issues. Dordrecht?: Springer, 2008. Print.
Ball, Marion J, and Kathryn J. Hannah. Nursing Informatics: Where Technology and Caring Meet. London: Springer, 2011. Print.