Nanomedicine refers to the medical application of nanotechnology, and particularly to the development of novel nanomaterials that can be used for disease diagnosis and therapy. The unique properties of nanoparticles promise to deliver a new generation of diagnostic reagents with higher signal-to-noise ratios than current imaging modalities, as well as targeted therapies that are more efficacious than today’s medicines and that have fewer adverse effects. Nanomaterials have a large surface-to-volume ratio compared to traditional delivery vehicles that offers a greater capacity for drugs and/or imaging reagents, and the ability to decorate nanoparticles with specific ligands means these diagnostic and therapeutic payloads can be delivered to particular cells. Several classes of nanomaterials are currently being developed, including synthetic materials and naturally occurring bionanomaterials such as viral nanoparticles (VNPs). Each of these systems has benefits and limitations with regard to pharmacokinetics, toxicity, immunogenicity and specificity for the target tissue.
Will virus-based nanoparticles revolutionize medicine or will it all end in grey goo?
Applications of viral nanoparticles in medicine. Curr Opin Biotechnol. May 16 2011
Several nanoparticle platforms are currently being developed for applications in medicine, including both synthetic materials and naturally occurring bionanomaterials such as viral nanoparticles (VNPs) and their genome-free counterparts, virus-like particles (VLPs). A broad range of genetic and chemical engineering methods have been established that allow VNP/VLP formulations to carry large payloads of imaging reagents or drugs. Furthermore, targeted VNPs and VLPs can be generated by including peptide ligands on the particle surface. In this article, we highlight state-of-the-art virus engineering principles and discuss recent advances that bring potential biomedical applications a step closer. Viral nanotechnology has now come of age and it will not be long before these formulations assume a prominent role in the clinic.