Friday, November 8, 2013

Faith and Skepticism in Nanomedicine

As one who has intermittently toiled in the field of nanoparticle mediated drug delivery, I am bemused by the uncritical, almost reverent acceptance by the news media of each new publication on nanomedicine that appears in a decent scientific journal.  A couple of recent examples might include a post on the Economist Babbage site enthusing about peptide-coated nanoworms that are designed to detect elevations of protease activities in certain disease states by releasing the peptides for detection in the urine. Another on the CEN website lauds work using drug bearing polymers to suppress inflammation in CNS microglial cells. This is not to criticize the scientists who did the work or the studies themselves; they are certainly interesting science. However, as is often the case in the nanomedicine area, these very early stage investigations are hailed as breakthroughs that will inevitably result in important advances in clinical medicine. Not likely!

Over the years I have seen hundreds of novel and interesting strategies involving use of nanotechnology for diagnosis or therapy come crashing to a halt as they encounter the complexities of real-world medicine. Yet the breathless, awestruck acceptance of new developments in this field continues. Apparently there is a robust mythology about nanomedicine that is widely accepted. However, a bit more skepticism would probably be good for the field in the long run. 

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