Some trends in the field of Nanobiology
Nanobiology combines the ideas and theories of nanoscience and the materials and tools of nanotechnology with those of biology at the nanoscale. Below is a small survey of current and future research trends in this exciting new field.
The field of nanobiology combines the ideas and theories of nanoscience and the materials and tools of nanotechnology with those of biology at the nanoscale (10-9 meters) level. The ability to observe, analyze, understand, and eventually manipulate biological systems at the sub-cellular and even molecular scales holds great promise for various branches of biology (e.g., biochemistry, molecular, sub-cellular and structural biologies) and opens the way for important scientific contributions ranging from the development of new bio-imaging devices and sensors to the synthesis and characterization of novel bionanomaterials to advances in the theory, modeling and simulation of diverse nanoscale biological and fundamental life processes. In fact, the range of applications of nanotechnology to biology is so myriad that a brief survey of current research and applications includes: biological sensors (e.g., for the detection of pathogens); instruments for nanobiological characterization (e.g., Atomic Force Microscopy and Scanning Tunneling Microscopy) which can image biological surfaces and intracellular structures at very small scales and can sometimes map physical properties (e.g., the binding forces, or signaling events) at the cellular level; biological tagging or labeling (e.g., with fluorescent tags, quantum dots, or functional magnetic nanoparticles) for use in cell separation, probing, screening, and other biological assays; biological filters (e.g., the high reactivity of titanium nanoparticles, particularly when exposed to UV light, has been used as a bactericide and to destroy other dangerous toxins) for the improved separation and isolation of chemical compounds via nanoporous materials; biological coatings (e.g., with antibodies, cell-surface receptors, hybrid biopolymers, monolayers, etc.) and nanocapsules or nanospheres (circular structures that can serve as extremely small ball bearings or which can be used to absorb, transport and diffuse substances and which have useful physical properties such as the absorption and reflection of specific wavelengths of energy) that are used in cell targeting, tumor destruction (e.g., in photodynamic cancer therapy) and guided drug and gene delivery systems for combating a variety of pathologies, or alternatively, in nanoceramic materials for tissue engineering and orthopedics; nanopharmacology which hopes to create and match specific compounds for particular patients (so called, personal therapeutic regiments) which will be maximally efficient (because they will be tissue or cell-targeted and have sustained delivery) and will minimize unwanted side effects; hybrid bio-electronic devices derived from biomolecules (e.g., the growth and assembly of nanotubes and nanowires in the manufacture of nano-circuitry) for more efficient energy conservation or creation (e.g., nanoceramic insulation, nanolubrication, nanophotonic cells for illumination, etc.). Future trends in the field of nanobiology will aim at increasing the functionality of current nanomaterials and on improving the control of these materials via external signals or local environmental mechanisms that are more targeted or less disruptive to the functioning of other biological processes.