What if nanites could be used to genetically manipulate the body's own ability to heal itself? We can already use nanotechnology to manipulate the genetic structure of retroviruses that are helping to combat millions of diseases and even some cancers. What would be so strange about creating a nanite that could manipulate a person's own body to repair itself and accelerate the healing process? Think of the applications. It would reduce the need for exploratory surgery in dangerous situations, like brain tumors. Simply use a laporoscopic technique to insert nanites specifically tuned to a person's DNA markers with an instruction set to repair the damage and then shut themselves down. I know sounds like the stuff of science fiction. We've all seen this episode of Star Trek where the nanites don't shut down after they repair the damage. Are there risks? Of course there are, but there are risks with everything. There's a risk getting out of bed in the morning. There's a risk crossing the street. Hell there's a risk that you aren't even going to wake up each time you go to bed. Thing is, that doesn't stop the world from going round and it doesn't stop scientific discovery from happening.
Three young Swiss scientists in 2016 were using molecular chemistry to create complex machines. In 2007 Indian doctors were talking about the health benefits of using nanotechnology to detect cancer, deliver drugs to a patient, and to aid in contraception. Nano technology has come a long way since then. Welsh medical professionals and scientists are looking now at ways to utilize nanotechnology to deliver better drugs, creating retroviruses to manipulate certain strains of bacteria and diseases to eradicate them. The technology is there, or at least close enough to there for it to be a feasible possibility. Are there hurdles to leap over still? Probably almost definitely, but how are we going to know unless we try?
I was sitting here thinking about all the different applications for nanotechnology that I've seen in the last several years and wondering what if I'll give you a for instance. A normal man has been injured in an accident at some point in his life. While undergoing surgery, to aid the doctors in repairing his body, nanites are introduced into his blood. The doctor's do everything they can, the nanites do the rest and then shut down. Now, the nanites are still in the man's blood, but they're dormant. Years later, the man is injured again. Nothing major mind you, but maybe something serious that he would need stitches for. He gets the wound cleaned up and stitched, expects its going to take a few weeks for the wound to heal and that he'll have an interesting new scar. A day or two later, he's cleaning the wound and finds it's completely healed. No scar, no nothing. The nanites, which were dormant, reactivated and healed him then went back to sleep. Better still same man gets a tumor down the road. Has terrible headaches, doesn't know why. The doctor's do a cat scan. Find the tumor, but before they can decide to operate, the little nanites go to work and eat the tumor for lunch. Man survives.
These are idealized scenarios, I'll grant. There are a hundred thousand things that could go wrong, but what if it worked? How would we know if no one tried? Sure, the nanites could be activated on the first surgery and then never shut off. They could start "repairing" things that don't need repaired and do more harm than good. They could work exactly as expected the first time, and then never turn back on. They could turn on the first time and the second, then never turn off. There are any number of scenarios of what, could happen. However, the potential benefit is limitless. Look at what nanotechnology has already done for medicine. We have proven therapies for diseases that we would never have thought to use a decade ago. We have advances in molecular chemistry and physics that we never dreamed possible. Limitless power capability, because of Carbon nanotubes is nothing to sneeze at. Am I saying that we should trust in nanotechnology fully, that it would work all the time? God, no. We don't even trust in our automobiles to work all the time. What I am saying is that the advancement of nanotechnology in the biomedical field could and should make surgery simpler, less invasive to the human body, less stressful to the patient, and more reliable.
With the cracking of the human genome, we should be able to specifically code each group of nanite to each specific person, so there should be no worry that they are going to replicate themselves and become a threat to humanity. They should be able to be tooled genetically to their specific task of repairing the body of each person, much like the white blood cells are. It would be akin to genetic manipulation from a molecular level. Instead of using a person's own body to reprogram and repair, you're using a microscopic machine made out of a material that will last for a number of years and will do one specific job only when it is called upon to do so. It's kind of like having a giant computer lying in wait for an instruction set. Once the instruction is given it performs with efficiency and rapidity that results in less loss of life, higher accuracy, and perhaps earlier detection. From a purely theoretical standpoint, I suppose it could also give the option of greater longevity. Increasing the human life span could be a side effect of this application. Afterall, better medical care does have a tendency to prolong human life expectancy. Though it wouldn't make people immortal. Bodies eventually give out. We are afterall, frail creatures with bodies that deteriorate over time no matter how well we take care of them. Regardless of the medical or technological breakthroughs we make, it isn't up to us to decide who live and who dies. We just try to prevent senseless death where we can, because our Creator deems it so.
Why not put to use the genetic breakthroughs that we've made with the cracking of the human genes, and combine it with the technological breakthrough of nanotechnology. Advance many areas of science and medicine at once to bring humanity into an age where we truly are living in the future that people like Hawking, Feynman, Einstein, Newton, Nobel, Edison, etc envisioned. There are so many applications that we could use the technology for that would benefit all of mankind that we can't even see yet. Think of how such advancements in medicine would make living on the Moon or Mars that much more feasible. Imagine what would happen once we get our colonies set up on those distant bodies and we no longer have ready access to John's Hopkins or Mount Sinai? What happens when one of our colonists gets burned and they don't have access to UC Davis? With nanotechnology they would be able to get the medical help they need right away. There would still be a physician involved, but they would not necessarily have to be on site. Remote medicine would become a whole new field. One, I'm afraid the say that will be more necessary, sooner than many people want to believe.
With nanotechnology the doctor could simply program the devices for a specific task and not have to worry about them having to turn them off, as they would shut themselves off when they are done. One of those "program them and leave them alone" type deals. For that matter it would make our astronauts a lot safer too. You could make it standard procedure for each astronaut to be injected with nanites that were programmed with their individual DNA sequences to make it quick and easy for the NASA or whatever space agency physicians to render medical assistance even if the injured astronaut is in the field.
As I said, there are an infinite number of applications for this technology that in my opinion are well worth the risks. The key to an operation of this nature is to, quite simply, go forward with both eyes open. Don't make blind decisions when it comes to how to implement the technology as it applies to humans. Understand that there are risks, know what those risk might be, and what their possible ramifications could be before you proceed. Make educated decisions, give the people involved all of the information, and keep open lines of communication at all times. This prevents problems in the future. There's no way to completely prevent any accidents. There's no way to prepare for every eventuality. Sometimes you just have to move forward with new ideas and technology in order to make real change and progress towards the future. I, for one believe the saying of Walt Disney, Around here, however, we don't look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things, because we're curious...and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.
Thank you for reading!