If this question is a little off topic for Biology, I'm sorry. I've recently read a lot about mesoporous silica nanoparticles as a promising drug delivery method. The huge range of customizability of the particles, coatings, contents, etc. can pretty much tailor them to be effective in delivering most drugs to most target locations in the body (or to specific cells). The research is not new, and all the articles hail the method as a very promising way to treat for example cancer. However, as far as I know, these methods are not widely used today. Why? Is there some catch that I don't see?

I'm no biology expert, but if this is so promising, and the research is at least a decade old, some companies would have produced this (they already produce the particles) in terms of drug delivery. So why not? Is it a case of null-findings not being published? Is it actually used and I'm blind?

Thanks for your help!

edit: for those interested, here is a good review

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    $\begingroup$ It's Nice question. But mostly Nanotechnology is not into health industry is because of side effects(and may be the cost of research) or toxicity. guardianlv.com/2014/07/… $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 15, 2014 at 12:45
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    $\begingroup$ Those are good points, but given the amount of research done, and the huge (I would believe) interest of the pharmaceutical industry, those problems are easily rectified. Negative surface charge (when considering targeting the brain), size to prevent endocytosis. It can target specific cells via antibody coatings. It can be used in MRI. You can control content release. I mean, whats not to like. Still we go on with systemic drugs and therapies (looking at you chemotherapy). The materials used can alse be designed to be biodegrable and non toxic. $\endgroup$
    – Sevenius
    Commented Jul 15, 2014 at 13:00
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    $\begingroup$ I work in the pharma/biotech industry. Nanotechnology in general is a very active field of research. The issues with any new delivery system are two-fold - the first is being able to prove safety and efficacy, which is no small task, and the second is development time. It can take 10-15 years or more for a novel therapeutic to reach the market, and that's with a "standard" delivery system like a pill or infusion. Developing and getting approval for something entirely new like this would add even more time to the pipeline, which is why you haven't seen it on the market yet. $\endgroup$
    – MattDMo
    Commented Jul 15, 2014 at 21:05
  • $\begingroup$ I think that pretty much answers the question. I would guess that this form of delivery method is indeed surging forward to the markets as we speak? Do you perchance have links or information about any specific solutions that are on their way to market, or nearing a point where they can be put to market? $\endgroup$
    – Sevenius
    Commented Jul 18, 2014 at 7:41

1 Answer 1


Though I totally agree with your views towards nanotechnology, There is always two sides of a coin.

According to this article THE BAD (of Nanotechnology):


Nanoparticles have been shown to be absorbed in the livers of research animals and even cause brain damage in fish exposed to them after just 48 hours. If they can be taken up by cells, then they can enter our food chain through bacteria and pose a health threat like mercury in fish, pesticides in vegetables or hormones in meat. The increasingly-popular carbon nanotube (20x stronger and lighter than steel) looks very much like an asbestos fiber – what happens if they get released into the air? Being carbon-based, they wouldn’t set off the usual alarms in our bodies, making them difficult to detect.


If nanomaterials really are as strong as diamonds, how decomposable or persistent are they? Will they litter our environment further or present another disposal problem like nuclear waste or space litter? In the distant future, will self-replicating nanobots – necessary to create the trillions of nanoassemblers needed to build any kind of product – run amok, spreading as quickly as a virus, in the infamous “gray goo” scenario?

Not only that Each country have a different point of view on the topic of nanotechnology in Health(or nano-medicine).

Government Response on Nanotechnology:

United Kingdom

In its seminal 2004 report Nanoscience and Nanotechnologies: Opportunities and Uncertainties, the United Kingdom's Royal Society concluded that:

Many nanotechnologies pose no new risks to health and almost all the concerns relate to the potential impacts of deliberately manufactured nanoparticles and nanotubes that are free rather than fixed to or within a material.

They want to change the existing regulation to be modified on a precautionary basis because they expect that the toxicity of chemicals in the form of free nanoparticles cannot be predicted from their toxicity in a larger form.

United States

Rather than adopt a new nano-specific regulatory framework, FDA convenes an 'interest group' each quarter with representatives of FDA centers that have responsibility for assessment and regulation of different substances and products. This interest group ensures coordination and communication. A September 2009 FDA document called for identifying sources of nanomaterials, how they move in the environment, the problems they might cause for people, animals and plants, and how these problems could be avoided or mitigated.

Berkeley, CA is currently the only city in the United States to regulate nanotechnology, which is still being opposed.

European Union

The European Union has formed a group to study the implications of nanotechnology called the Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks which has published a list of risks associated with nanoparticles. Consequently, manufacturers and importers of carbon products, including carbon nano-tubes will have to submit full health and safety data within a year or so in order to comply with REACH.

According to REACH(from Page 22, 4.2 Pharmaceutical regulation, PhD Thesis of Steffen Foss Hansen, DTU):

The application of engineered nanoparticles for medical use offers immense benefits within areas like diagnosis, targeted drug delivery, and drug development and have been marketed for more than 17 years (NanoRoad SME 2006, EGE 2007, Gaspar 2007).

Well-described and understood medicinal products containing nanoparticles in the form of liposomes, polymer protein conjugates, polymeric substances or suspensions have been given Marketing Authorizations within the EU under the existing regulatory framework e.g. Regulation 726/2004 on authorization and supervision of medicinal products for human and veterinary use, Directive 2001/83/EC on medicinal products for human use, Directive 93/42/EEC concerning medical devices, Directive 90/385/EEC relating to active implantable medical devices, and Directive 98/79/EC on in vitro diagnostic medical devices (EP & CEU 2004, Council of the European Communities 1990, 1993, 1998, 2001).

There is no specific mentioning of nanomedicine in the EU legislation on medicinal products and devices, tissue engineering and other advanced therapies. None of these regulations or directives was written with nanomedicinal applications in mind and although their scope covers nanomedicine they have been accused for being general and non-specific and fraught with concerns and difficulties when it comes to dealing with drugs more complex than traditional ones (Editorial 2007, D'Silva and Van Calster 2008).

The use of nanoparticles in nanomedicine has not been subject to much regulatory scrutiny since existing laws and regulatory instruments are believed also to cover medical products based on nanotechnology. The extensive testing requirements prior to marketing of medicine may also contribute to the notion that the potentially negative effects will be discovered prior to marketing, that patients are adequately informed about negative side-effects, and that benefits outweigh the risks or the adverse effects, should such be found to occur (EGE 2007, N&ET Working Group 2007) .


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