Nano News

Food Nanotechnology – The Research Being Conducted

 

What is Food Nanotechnology?

Since the definition of nanotechnology involves controlling, building, and restructuring materials on an atomic and molecular scale on the order of tens to a few hundreds of nanometers (1x10-8 to 1x10-9 m), it can be said that nanotechnology has largely been used in food for packaging for many years, but not so much in other areas. Nanotechnology starts with how the food is grown, at the agricultural level, then expands into the processing level, and is even used in how food is packaged. Plenty of research is being done in the field of food nanotechnology in areas such as food processing, food packaging, and supplements to bring about a variety of different applications. Some examples include nanosensors to detect spoiled food, nanoparticles to reduce the occurrence of food spoilage, nanoparticles to block UV rays and provide anti-bacterial protection, nanosensors to detect contaminates in food, nanocapsules in foods to deliver vitamins and nutrients to the body if a vitamin deficiency is detected, and even nanocapsules added to foods to make them interactive which would allow for choice of flavors and colors. It seems limitless to what food technologists are prepared to do in the field of food nanotechnology.

Nanotechnology in Food Processing

Food nanotechnology is currently being researched and tested in the field of food processing, though these nanotechnologies are still at the developmental stage. One such technology being researched is the additive of nanocapsules to food to infuse plant-based steroids to replace a meat's cholesterol. In other words, these nanocapsules in plant would provide the “good” cholesterol the human body needs without the necessity of meat. In addition, nanoparticles are being tested to selectively bind and remove harmful chemicals or pathogens from food. Finally, still at the research stage, nanoemulsions are being tested in plants for better availability of nutrients and dispersion amongst the plant.

Nanotechnology in Food Packaging

The most widely used food nanotechnology today is through clay nanocomposites which provide impermeable barriers to gasses, such as oxygen or carbon dioxide, in packaging such as bottles, cartons, and films. But, plenty of other food nanotechnologies are being researched, including adding antibodies to fluorescent nanoparticles to detect chemicals or foodborne pathogens. Plus, improved nanoclays and nanofilms are being developed to act as barriers to prevent spoilage oxygen absorption. Therefore, your foods will last longer. And, to reduce waste, silicate nanoparticles are being tested to provide lighter and stronger heat-resistant films to package foods in.

Nanotechnology in Supplements

The third area of food nanotechnology centers on supplements, or additives, to food for a variety of health benefits. Foremost, nanosized powders are being researched that provide increased absorption of nutrients into the human body. Equally important is the research into nanocochleates, which would deliver nutrients more efficiently to cells. As an added benefits, these nanocochleates would not alter the color or taste of food. Lastly, vitamin sprays, still in the research in development stage, aim to disperse active vitamin molecules into nanodroplets for human consumption, therefore increasing absorption. 

Biomedical Nanotechnology – Diagnostics and Drug Therapy

 

What is Biomedical Nanotechnology?

The science of nanotechnology is a relatively new science, with extensive research maturing in this field over the last two decades, involving manipulating matter on an atomic and molecular scale on the order of tens to a few hundreds of nanometers (1x10-8 to 1x10-9). In biomedical terms, these new micro-materials provide a broad range of applications in medicine and biological research, especially in areas such as diagnostics and drug therapy. In addition, biomedical nanotechnology holds promising potential for further developments in cancer therapy, early disease detection, and treatment efficacy evaluation by targeting ligands/antibodies to allow for targeted molecular diagnostics. Thus, nanotechnology is emerging as a truly interdisciplinary research area in biomedical science, as it is poised to make revolutionary innovations. However, much of the research done on biomedical nanotechnology shows that its application may remain more of a vision than a reality; for, extensive questioning about long-term safety and risk-benefit analysis research yields inconclusive results.

Biomedical Nanotechnology in Diagnostics

Biomedical nanotechnology has already been applied in several fields of optical molecular imaging, diagnostics, and therapeutics in areas such as computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and positron emission tomography (PET). As it currently stands, more research is being done in each of these three optical imaging technologies due to their limitations and shortfalls. While MRIs are widely-used, for example, they are also non-portable, costly, and they provide weak functional contrast. In addition, biomedical nanotechnology in diagnostic tools is limited in their techniques on humans because they are either too weak or potentially harmful. For example, ballistic optical imaging techniques cannot penetrate the skin more than one millimeter due to strong optical scattering, and conventionally employed fluorescent nanoparticles have harmful side effects such as photo-bleaching and toxicity. Therefore, more research in the field of diagnostic biomedical nanotechnology is necessary to advance noninvasive imaging techniques, for the synthesis and modification of novel nanoparticles, and for treatment efficacy evaluation in both an effective and quantitative manner.

Biomedical Nanotechnology in Drug Therapy

Research has shown that nano-sized colloidal particles have the potential to be engineered to provide opportunities for site-specific delivery of drugs after injection into the general circulatory or lymphatic systems in three orders of targeting: the first-order of targeting is where the drugs are delivered via nanoparticles to a particular organ; the second-order of targeting is where nanoparticles deliver the drug to a specific cell type; and the third-order of targeting is where nanoparticles deliver the drug and direct it to a specific structure within a cell (such as the nucleus, for example). While still in the research phase, several methods for achieving nano-technological delivery have been proposed. Chemical methods involve the use of inactive compounds to release an active compound by means of an enzymatic process. On the other hand, biological methods involve targeting the drug to an antibody and directing the conjugate towards an antigen residing on the target tissue. Both methods, however, have their shortfalls and more research is necessary. With chemical methods, at the present time, there is no clear discrimination between target tissue and nontarget tissue. And, with biological approaches, it is difficult to find tissues bearing specific antigens for targeting; consequently, the conjugate may be delivered to both target and nontarget tissues with toxic side effects to untargeted areas. Therefore, more research in the field of biomedical nanotechnology in drug therapy is necessary for both the success of drug delivery and for the safety of the patient.

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Bionanotechnology Laboratory
Suresh Neethirajan

School of Engineering
University of Guelph
Guelph, Ontario
Canada N1G 2W1

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Lab: THRN 2133 BioNano Lab

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