Nanotechnology deals in the tiny. A millionth the size of a pinhead. If a marble was 1 nanometre, then the Earth would be a metre. The physics at this nanoscale is peculiar, where properties change and objects move constantly. This is where the fundamental properties of matter are determined, carbon’s decision time between diamond or pencil. One of the great promises of nanotechnology resides in its application to research in biology and innovation in medicine.
Edited by Jérémie Leonard (University of Strasbourg), Didier Rouxel (University of Lorraine) and Pascal Hebraud (University of Strasbourg), the supplement is from the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) School of Nanophysics for Health, which took place in Mittelwhir, France, 5-9 November 2012.
The tutorials discuss both biological and manufactured nanoparticles. Through these tutorials, the supplement aims to cultivate communication and collaboration between scientific communities of different disciplines in this shared field.
Proteins are biological nanomachines. Working together, they are essentially tiny machines, with built-in regulatory features and molecular moving parts giving a biological output. The supplement discusses protein structure, dynamics and assembly, with experimental developments as well as theoretical developments. This research is crucial to understanding protein function at a molecular level.
Outstanding progress has been made using nanoscale devices for biomedical challenges, such as nanomedicines as therapy and for imaging and diagnosis. As Professor Couvreur (University of Paris-Sud) explains,
“Nanoscale devices are similar in size to large biological molecules, such as enzymes and receptors. They could move through the walls of blood vessels, interact with molecules and enter into the cells. Therefore, nanoscale devices have the potential to enable the translation of molecular-based science into the clinic, facilitating major progress in the early detection, diagnosis and treatment of several diseases. In cancer therapy, for instance, nanomedicines offer promising possibilities to assure specific accumulation at the tumour site, improving the pharmacokinetic profile and safety of both drugs and contrast imaging agents.”
Using nanotechnology for these biomedical challenges has great potential, with the interdisciplinary nature of the field, the tutorials in this supplement are essential tools in building communication and collaboration.