Originally Published MDDI May 2005
EDITOR'S PAGE A Medical Device Nanorevolution
Nanotechnology may be the buzzword of the day, but it's for good reason.
A Medical Device Nanorevolution
Nanotechnology is more than just a cool buzzword to describe the world's tiniest structures. If so, why aren't more device manufacturers finding ways to apply it to devices? Device manufacturers need to embrace nanotechnology—and the time to do that is now. Perhaps you just aren't aware of the implications. The future includes everything from coatings, MEMS, and particulates to extensions of biotech and pharma combined with implantable devices.
To some extent, submicron technologies are “getting onto the radar screen of device developers,” says Sanjay Shrivastava, R&D manager of endovascular technologies at Abbott Vascular Devices (Redwood City, CA). Device manufacturers, however, need to be more aware of what these technologies could do. Shrivastava says that for many device manufacturers, the awareness is just not there.
To fully understand the future of nanotechnology for devices, industry must think of these technologies on a broader scale than what is technically considered nano. It is equally important to understand that nano means different things to different people, says Shrivastava. “It covers everything from metals to polymers to coatings to smart structures, depending on whether you're talking to a chip developer or a coatings expert,” he explains.
Nanotechnology and submicron technologies will not necessarily revolutionize the medical device industry as a whole, says Shrivastava. Rather, he says that these technologies will gradually trickle into existing development. “Some devices will simply perform better. In other cases, it will be a quantum leap.”
“There are a number of applications where submicron-level technologies can have some tremendous benefit,” he says. Besides drug-eluting stents, other potential applications include neurostimulators, neuromodulators, pacemakers, and orthopedic implants. “With MEMS, neurostimulators can have a smarter chip in a smaller area implanted. Like drug-eluting stents, orthopedic implants could use more-controlled materials and mechanical properties enhanced with nanotechnology,” he says.
Examples include nanocoatings and material surfaces that can improve biocompatibility, replace polymers for elution, and improve the life and functionality of devices. The list of nano-based technologies goes on and on. Nanotechnology can be used to combine radiation and hyperthermia or ablation. It can be used to prepare drugs as nanoparticles to improve drug solubility. In the stent marketplace, for example, applying this technology provides physicians with safer and more-effective imaging options.
“Nanotechnology is underappreciated and underrecognized,” says Shrivastava. The implication of these developments is that device manufacturers have the technology available to make major changes to the practice of medicine. Pacemakers, defibrillators, neurostimulators, and catheters are just a few of the medical devices that could be affected—even though the results may be a few years off.
It is clear that the advances in nanotechnology could have a major effect on some of the device industry's biggest markets. There is potential in the future, and it's time for device manufacturers to use these technologies to take their devices to the next step.
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