SC2: Nanobiomaterials

Written by: Nathan Holwell (Chair), Rosa Comas (Clerk), and Laura McKiel (Editor)

Nano is derived from the Greek word “nanos” meaning dwarf. This scale deals with “stuff” at the 10-9 level. Therefore, any biomaterial with a length scale less than 100 nm will be considered a nanobiomaterial.


What kind of structures can be made at this level?

Nanoparticles Nanowires
Spherical structures Cylindrical structures
Can be hollow, have a multi-core structure or be solid Can be hollow, have a multi-core structure or be solid
Mainly used in biosensors, drug delivery, diagnosis Mainly used in tissue engineering and drug delivery

Precision Nanosystems is using a microfluidic device to create consistent nanoparticles for use in delivery vehicles for a multitude of applications. See a video of this process here. This US Army Research video demonstrates how they are utilizing the nanofibers to create better textiles.

Bottom up approaches take advantage of being able to manipulate individual atoms to aggregate into a usable particle. An example of this approach is the method used to make gold nanoparticles. Another approach is top down, which involves the use of energy to physically break down a material to make it nano-sized.


The following exercise was asked in the session and each group was given 15 minutes to think of a solution.

Group 1

You are asked by Precision Nanosystems to develop a new nanoparticle for drug delivery into the lungs

  • Inhalation was deemed to be the most direct route for this application
  • For the nanoparticles containing the drugs to stick to the inner lining of the lungs and not be blown out with an exhalation, the polymer would need to be hydrophilic
  • The polymer would need to degrade quickly by either heat, oxygen, or water, because the drugs would likely be needed promptly
  • Two suggested polymers would be alginate or gelatin
  • Nanofibres could not be used in this application since the body would recognize them as being asbestos


Group 2

You are asked by the Canadian Government to develop a nanofibrous textile to heal a wound

  • The suggested material to be used was chitosan because it is biodegradable, hydrophobic, and has antibacterial properties
  • Collagen I could be added to the chitosan as well as the RGD peptide, which would enhance cell attachment and proliferation, accelerating would healing
  • Honey could also be added to the textile as it also has antibacterial properties and helps to prevent infection due to its high viscosity
  • The textile could be electrospun, with the option of spraying the fibres directly on the skin, which would avoid any contamination
  • Air reaching the wound would not be an issue since the nanoscaffold is porous, and in the case of a burn wound the bandage overtop of the scaffold would be changed regularly

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