We have made great strides in robotics, including the ablity to build very small machines, called nanobots or nanites. These devices have a large potential as they can be used in everything from manufacturing components on a small scale to use in the medical professions by having the ability to repair tissues within the human body.
I believe that their use in medicine, or nanomedicine rather, will greatly increase in the next 10-15 years. These small devices are capable of performing diagnostics on the human body, deliver medication specifically to where they need to be, as well as check the toxicity levels in specific organs much more effectively than current capabilities allow.
Unfortunately, there are some concerns about using such technique, namely ethical concerns . While nanotechnology has the ability to provide powerful tools to the medical profession, people are worried things can go too far. Such technologies allow 'enhancement' to the human body much more powerful than steroids. Software is not perfect, so there is a chance the nanotechnology can cause more harm than good due to a coding error (we have seen what happens with simple unit conversions with NASA's Mars probes).
Currently the National Institute of Health is providing grants for further study into the capabilities of nanotechnologies in the medical profession. They tend to agree that some of the advances found will be seen in 10 or so years .
As with any new technology, there are things that must be worked out, either technical or ethical. Nanotechnology has advanced, but the ethics still need to be worked out. Within the next 10-15 years nanotechnology will become more common, and I think that many of the ethical concerns will be worked out. There will be government legislation regulating the use of this technology, to be sure.
Just imagine the possibilities. Cancer cells individually destroyed or repaired in place of current treatments. Taking a pill to clean the plaque in our arteries. The future looks very promising indeed!
1. The potential and the pitfalls of nanomedicine, May 7 2007, Nanowerk, http://www.nanowerk.com/spotlight/spotid=1891.php
2. Nanomedicine - Overview, National Institute of Technology, http://nihroadmap.nih.gov/nanomedicine/
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