Albuquerque's blue skies and majestic mountains provided a scenic backdrop for a summit that explores one of the most promising technologies on the horizon--nanomedicine, or the medical application of molecular nanotechnology--a still-developing science dedicated to constructing microscopic probes and biomechanical devices. SNM's Nanomedicine and Molecular Imaging Summit brings together academic, government and industry experts from across a spectrum of disciplines to explore a topic that may have great application for diagnosing and treating disease in the future.
"What makes the prospect of nanomedicine so exciting is that we're only just beginning to explore it," said Julie Sutcliffe, Ph.D., associate professor of biomedical engineering at the University of California, Davis, and SNM's Molecular Imaging Center of Excellence Summit program chair. "But before we can really embrace this technology, we need to fully understand its strengths and limitations."
Because current research has only scratched the surface, nanomedicine's potential has yet to be fully realized. The summit will provide an opportunity for scientific minds to explore ways in which molecular imaging and therapy currently use nanotechnology and how these same methods can facilitate advancements in the understanding and proper management of nanomaterials.
Many Mysteries to Solve
There are many mysteries surrounding nanomedicine that still need to be solved--including how nanomaterials are absorbed and distributed through the body, whether they will have adverse biological reactions, where they end up once they leave the body and how they impact the environment.
"Nanotechnology-enabled systems offer great promise for solving difficult environmental and biological problems," said Vicki Colvin, Ph.D., the Kenneth S. Pitzer-Schlumberger Professor of Chemistry and Professor of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering at Rice University in Houston. "Their small size, high surface areas and unique properties all provide opportunities for use-driven science and engineering research. For these or other examples of nanotechnology to ultimately improve our quality of life, it is critical to address early on the possible unanticipated consequences of nanotechnology's application."
Colvin, who also serves as co-director of the Richard E. Smalley Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology and director of the Center for Biological and Environmental Nanotechnology, opened the day's activities with the keynote address, "Environmental and Health Effects of Nanomaterials--Principles to Making Systems Safe by Design."
The first session of the day featured presentations led by experts on topics in nanomaterials, such as current advances in nanotechnology and nanomaterials; the problems associated with nanomedicine with respect to health, safety and the environment; and the role of molecular imaging in nanomedicine.
The second session began with presentations that covered life cycle analysis and risk management. By the end of the day, attendees learned about and discussed the design of nanomaterials and the basic science behind nano transport, stability, retention and fate.
Two additional sessions will be dedicated to understanding the current and potential uses of nanomaterials in the diagnosis and treatment of disease and the potential benefits and risks of using nanoparticles as a therapeutic delivery system.
"New applications for nanotechnology in medicine are being discovered at a tremendous pace," said Peter S. Conti, M.D., Ph.D., professor in the department of radiology at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of California and member of SNM's Nanomedicine and Molecular Imaging Summit Program Committee. "However, the health, safety and environmental issues that are arising almost as quickly need to be addressed in order for nanotechnology to truly translate into meaningful benefits to patients. Noninvasive imaging technologies have the potential to accelerate this process."