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UMass Medical School
UMass Lowell Research

The UMass NanoMedicine Institute

"Nanoscale Science and Technology Enabling Medical Innovations"

History and Vision

The UMass NanoMedicine Institute was established in July 2007 by a grant from the UMass President's Science & Technology Initiatives Fund. The primary objective of the Institute is to establish a vigorous interdisciplinary research program on applications of Nanotechnology in Medicine. In addition to fundamental research, the Institute is also developing an intellectual property portfolio and strategic partnerships with industry to accelerate technology transfer, workforce training, and economic development.

Overview of NanoMedicine from the NIH Roadmap for Medical Research

What if doctors could search out and destroy the very first cancer cells that would otherwise have caused a tumor to develop in the body? What if a broken part of a cell could be removed and replaced with a miniature biological machine? What if pumps the size of molecules could be implanted to deliver life-saving medicines precisely when and where they are needed? These scenarios may sound unbelievable, but they are the long-term goals of the NIH Roadmap's Nanomedicine initiative that we anticipate will yield medical benefits as early as 10 years from now.

Nanomedicine, an offshoot of nanotechnology, refers to highly specific medical intervention at the molecular scale for curing disease or repairing damaged tissues, such as bone, muscle, or nerve. A nanometer is one-billionth of a meter, too small to be seen with a conventional lab microscope. It is at this size scale – about 100 nanometers or less – that biological molecules and structures inside living cells operate.

Nanotechnology involves the creation and use of materials and devices at the level of molecules and atoms. Research in nanotechnology began with applications outside of medicine and is based on discoveries in physics and chemistry. This is because it is essential to understand the physical and chemical properties of molecules or complexes of molecules in order to control them. The same holds true for the molecules and structures inside living tissues. Researchers have developed powerful tools to extensively categorize the parts of cells in vivid detail, and we know a great deal about how these intracellular structures operate. Yet, scientists have still not been able to answer questions such as, "How many?" "How big?" and "How fast?" These questions must be addressed in order to build "nano" structures or "nano" machines that are compatible with living tissues and can safely operate inside the body. Once these questions are answered, we will design better diagnostic tools and engineer structures for more specific treatments of disease and repair of tissues.

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University of Massachusetts
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