Shalu Shukla
Bahra University

The use of nanotechnology in medicine and more specifically drug delivery is set to spread rapidly. Currently many substances are under investigation for drug delivery and more specifically for cancer therapy. Interestingly pharmaceutical sciences are using nanoparticles to reduce toxicity and side effects of drugs and up to recently did not realize that carrier systems themselves may impose risks to the patient. The kind of hazards that are introduced by using nanoparticles for drug delivery are beyond that posed by conventional hazards imposed by chemicals in classical delivery matrices. For nanoparticles the knowledge on particle toxicity as obtained in inhalation toxicity shows the way how to investigate the potential hazards of nanoparticles. The toxicology of particulate matter differs from toxicology of substances as the composing chemical(s) may or may not be soluble in biological matrices, thus influencing greatly the potential exposure of various internal organs. This may vary from a rather high local exposure in the lungs and a low or neglectable exposure for other organ systems after inhalation. However, absorbed species may also influence the potential toxicity of the inhaled particles. For nanoparticles the situation is different as their size opens the potential for crossing the various biological barriers within the body. From a positive viewpoint, especially the potential to cross the blood brain barrier may open new ways for drug delivery into the brain. In addition, the nanosize also allows for access into the cell and various cellular compartments including the nucleus. A multitude of substances are currently under investigation for the preparation of nanoparticles for drug delivery, varying from biological substances like albumin, gelatin and phospholipids for liposomes, and more substances of a chemical nature like various polymers and solid metal containing nanoparticles. It is obvious that the potential interaction with tissues and cells, and the potential toxicity, greatly depends on the actual composition of the nanoparticle formulation. This paper provides an overview on some of the currently used systems for drug delivery.


Recent years have witnessed unprecedented growth of research and applications in the area of nanoscience and nanotechnology. There is increasing optimism that nanotechnology, as applied to medicine, will bring significant advances in the diagnosis and treatment of disease. Anticipated applications in medicine include drug delivery, both in vitro and in vivo diagnostics, nutraceuticals and production of improved biocompatible materials (Duncan 2003; De Jong et al 2005; ESF 2005; European Technology Platform on Nanomedicine 2005; Ferrari 2005). Engineered nanoparticles are an important tool to realize a number of these applications. It has to be recognized that not all particles used for medical purposes comply to the recently proposed and now generally accepted definition of a size ≤100 nm (The Royal Society and Royal Academy of Engineering 2004). However, this does not necessarily has an impact on their functionality in medical applications. The reason why these nanoparticles (NPs) are attractive for medical purposes is based on their important and unique features, such as their surface to mass ratio that is much larger than that of other particles, their quantum properties and their ability to adsorb and carry other compounds. NPs have a relatively large (functional) surface which is able to bind, adsorb and carry other compounds such as drugs, probes and proteins. However, many challenges must be overcome if the application of nanotechnology is to realize the anticipated improved understanding of the patho-physiological basis of disease, bring more sophisticated diagnostic opportunities, and yield improved therapies. Although the definition identifies nanoparticles as having dimensions below 0.1 μm or 100 nm, especially in the area of drug delivery relatively large (size >100 nm) nanoparticles may be needed for loading a sufficient amount of drug onto the particles. The composition of the engineered nanoparticles may vary. Source materials may be of biological origin like phospholipids, lipids, lactic acid, dextran, chitosan, or have more “chemical” characteristics like various polymers, carbon, silica, and metals. The interaction with cells for some of the biological components like phospholipids will be quite different compared to the non biological components such as metals like iron or cadmium. Especially in the area of engineered nanoparticles of polymer origin (1)

A nanoparticle is a microscopic particle whose size is measured in nanometres (nm). It is defined as a particle with at least one dimension <200nm.or nanoparticles are solid colloidal particles ranging in size from 10nm to 1000nm. They consist of macromolecular materials in which the active principle is dissolved, entrapped or encapsulated, and/or to which the active principle is absorbed or attached.

Nanoparticle can be formulated, as injections consisting of spherical amorphous particles which do not aggregate, hence they can be safely administered by the intravenous route. Since no cosolvent is used to solubilize the drug, the overall toxicity of the formulation is decreased.

Nanoparticles represent very promising carrier system for the targeting of anti-cancer agents to tumors. Nanoparticles exhibit a significant tendency to accumulate in a number of tumors after iv injection. Nanoparticles can also be used in Brain Drug Targeting.Poly (butyl cyanoacrylate) nanoparticles represent the only nanoparticles that were so far successfully used for in vivo delivery of drugs to brain. This polymer has the advantage that it is very rapidly biodegradable.The first drug that was delivered to brain using nanoparticles was the Hexapeptide Dalargin (Tyr-D-Ala-Gly-Phe-Leu-Arg), a Leu-enkephalin analouge with opioid activity.Other drugs that have successfully been transported into the brain are loperamide, tubocurarine, and doxorubicin. Nanoparticles mediated drug transport to the brain depends on the overcoating of the particles with polysorbates, especially polysorbate 80. (2)

Nanoclusters have at least one dimension between 1 and 10 nanometers and a narrow size distribution. Nanopowders are agglomerates of ultrafine particles, nanoparticles, or nanoclusters. Nanometer-sized Single crystals or Single domain ultrafine particles, are often referred to as nanocrystals. Nanoparticle research is currently an area of intense scientific interest due to a wide variety of potential applications in biomedical, optical and electronic fields.

(a, b, and c) images of prepared mesoporous silica nanoparticles with mean outer diameter: (a) 20nm, (b) 45nm, and (c) 80nm. (d) image corresponding to (b). The insets are a hig magnification of mesoporous silica particle.(3)


1. Quantum Dot
A quantum dot is a semiconductor nanostructure that confines the motion of conduction band electrons, valence band holes, or excitons (pairs of conduction band electrons and valence band holes) in all three spatial directions. The confinement can be due to electrostatic potentials (generated by external electrodes, doping, strain, impurities), due to the presence of an interface between different semiconductor materials (e.g. in the case of self-assembled quantum dots), due to the presence of the semiconductor surface (e.g. in the case of a semiconductor nanocrystal), or to a combination of these. A quantum dot has a discrete quantized energy spectrum. A quantum dot contains a small integer number (of the order of 1-100) of conduction band electrons, valence band holes, or excitons, i.e., an integer number of elementary electric charges.

Small quantum dots, such as colloidal semiconductor nanocrystals, can be as small as 2 to 10 nanometers, corresponding to 10 to 50 atoms in diameter and a total of 100 to 100'000 atoms within the quantum dot volume. Self-assembled quantum dots are typically between 10 and 50 nanometers in size. Quantum dots defined by lithographically patterned gate electrodes or by etching on two-dimensional electron gases in semiconductor heterostructures can have lateral dimensions exceeding 100 nanometers. At 10 nanometers in diameter, nearly 3 million quantum dots could be lined up end to end and fit within the width of a human thumb.

Quantum dots can be contrasted to other semiconductor nanostructures:
1) Quantum wires, which confine the motion of electrons or holes in two spatial directions and allow free propagation in the third.
2) Quantum wells, which confine the motion of electrons or hles in one direction and allow free propagation in two directions.

Quantum dots with a nearly spherical symmetry or flat quantum dots with nearly cylindrical symmetry can show shell filling according to the equivalent of Hund's rules for atoms. Such dots are sometimes called "artificial atoms". In contrast to atoms, the energy spectrum of a quantum dot can be engineered by controlling the geometrical size, shape, and the strength of the confinement potential.


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