Medical applications for carbon nanotubes in range from sensors for early detection of imflammatory disease to building lenses that can concentrate sound waves enough to blast diseased tissue from outside the patients body.
Researchers at the University of Connecticut have developed a sensor that uses nanotubes and gold nanoparticles to detect proteins that indicate the presence of oral cancer. Tests have shown this sensor to be accurate and it provides results in less than an hour.
Medical implants made of porous plastic, coated with carbon nanotubes are being used for drug delivery. Therapeutic drugs, which are attached to the nanotubes can be released into the bloodstream, for example, when a change in the blood chemistry signals a problem. NASA is developing such an implant, called a "biocapsule", to protect astronauts from the effects of radiation. The implants may also be useful for releasing insulin in diabetic patients and for delivering chemotherapy drugs directly to tumors.
Researchers have demonstrated a method to generate sound waves that are powerful, but also tightly focused, that may eventually be used for noninvasive surgery. They use a lens coated with carbon nanotubes to convert light from a laser to focused sound waves. The intent is to develop a method that could blast tumors or other diseased areas without damaging healthy tissue.
Researchers are using carbon nanotubes to change adult stem cells into a type of cell that may help heal damaged heart tissue.
Reseachers at MIT have developed a sensor using carbon nanotubes embedded in a gel; that can be injected under the skin to monitor the level of nitric oxide in the bloodstream. The level of nitric oxide is important because it indicates inflamation, allowing easy monitoring of imflammatory diseases. In tests with laboratory mice the sensor remained functional for over a year.
Carbon nanotubes and gold nanoparticles are being used in a sensor that detects proteins indicative of oral cancer. Tests have shown this sensor to be accurate in detecting oral cancer and provides results in less than an hour.
Targeted heat therapy is being developed to destroy breast cancer tumors. In this method antibodies that are strongly attracted to proteins produced in one type of breast cancer cell are attached to nanotubes, causing the nanotubes to accumulate at the tumor. Infrared light from a laser is absorbed by the nanotubes and produces heat that incinerates the tumor.
Improving the healing process for broken bones by providing a carbon nanotube scaffold that new bone material can grow around.
Using nanotubes as a cellular scale needle to deliver quantum dots and proteins into cancer cells.
Compiled by Earl Boysen of Hawk's Perch Technical Writing, LLC and UnderstandingNano.com. You can find him on Google+.