Application of nanotechnology to medicine: recent developments, challenges and perspectives

Simona Mura
Associate Professor
University Paris-Sud XI, Faculty of Pharmacy, Institut Galien Paris-Sud, UMR CNRS 8612
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Advanced nanoscale systems for drug delivery have recently received tremendous attention, in particular from the field of medicine. The need for drug nanocarriers that efficiently target diseased areas in the body arises because drug efficacy is often altered by non-specific cell and tissue biodistribution, and because some drugs are rapidly metabolized or excreted from the body. Owing to impressive progress in material science and pharmaceutics, a broad range of nanocarriers with diverse sizes, architectures and surface properties have been designed. The size of the carriers is typically small (from a few tenths to a few hundreds of nanometres) so as to allow systemic (intravenous) or local (mucosal) administration, and to promote their diffusion within the cell. Moreover, current surface-functionalization methodologies can impart nanocarriers the ability to control, at least in part, their pharmacokinetics and biodistribution. Surface shielding with a hydrophilic PEG shell prolonged circulation half-life of nanomedicines, thus allowing preferential passive accumulation in tumor tissues due to the “enhanced permeability and retention” (EPR) effect. Decoration with various ligands conferred specific cell-targeting ability. Nanomedicines which integrate the simultaneous detection and treatment of a disease (nanotheranostics) have been also proposed in the continuous effort to improve sensitivity and precision in disease screening/diagnosis as well as the effectiveness of treatment strategies. In addition, nanotheranostic are likely to prompt the nanomedicine field toward the personalized medicine.

Nanotechnology-based drug delivery has shown promising results, however, despite the wide enthusiasm and the promises associated to the presentation of each new nanomedicine, only few of them have been approved for clinical applications and reached the marketplace. It is clear that translation of nanomedicines from the bench to the bedside is not straightforward.

The most significant progresses in the field of nanomedicine, challenges and future perspectives will be presented.

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