Select your localized edition:

Close ×

More Ways to Connect

Discover one of our 28 local entrepreneurial communities »

Be the first to know as we launch in new countries and markets around the globe.

Interested in bringing MIT Technology Review to your local market?

MIT Technology ReviewMIT Technology Review - logo


Unsupported browser: Your browser does not meet modern web standards. See how it scores »

{ action.text }

The scalpel is a wondrously simple and effective tool that has saved many lives. But from the vantage point of a human cell, a scalpel is about as precise as an incoming asteroid. The processes that constitute life and death, health and disease, occur within cells on the scale of billionths of a meter (nanometers). This is roughly the dimension of the DNA double helix, the proteins issuing from the genetic code, and all the other macromolecules that float in the aqueous environment of the living cell. The ultimate medical toolkit is not the scalpel and suturing needle; it is a set of tools small enough to go right inside the cell and repair individual DNA molecules or proteins the way a mechanic adjusts the timing belt on a Honda Civic.

Enter nanomedicine. As described in this issue’s Special Report, nanomedicine is the application of techniques from materials science to the world of biomedicine. It could provide just the molecular toolkit the doctor ordered. One tool in the box would be “quantum dots,” described in Senior Editor David Rotman’s story as molecule-sized aggregates of semiconductor atoms that attach themselves to specific biological structures and light up with a message: “I’m stuck right here on this cancer protein,” for instance. Like a flare dropped from an airplane, this signal would trigger a volley of artillery fire in the form of chemotherapeutic agents.

0 comments about this story. Start the discussion »

Tagged: Communications

Reprints and Permissions | Send feedback to the editor

From the Archives


Introducing MIT Technology Review Insider.

Already a Magazine subscriber?

You're automatically an Insider. It's easy to activate or upgrade your account.

Activate Your Account

Become an Insider

It's the new way to subscribe. Get even more of the tech news, research, and discoveries you crave.

Sign Up

Learn More

Find out why MIT Technology Review Insider is for you and explore your options.

Show Me