The Cleveland Clinic is investing in the emerging field of nanomedicine, which focuses on the tiniest of particles. The Cleveland Clinic is investing in the emerging field of nanomedicine, which focuses on the tiniest of particles. The Cleveland Clinic is investing in the emerging field of nanomedicine, which focuses on the tiniest of particles. (Photo: Science photo / Shutterstock)

The Cleveland Clinic has a new plan for eradicating the world's worst diseases

Acclaimed hospital sets its sights on nanotechnology, the tiniest science known to mankind.

The Cleveland Clinic, known worldwide for its groundbreaking work in healthcare, has led the way for many medical breakthroughs. Doctors there pioneered heart bypass surgery and performed the first face transplant in the United States.

And now the nearly 100-year-old research facility has announced its next innovation: an initiative to eradicate some of the world's most threatening illnesses, including heart disease and cancer. To accomplish this, they are investing heavily in the field of nanomedicine.

"To really move the needle, we need to take some bold new approaches," says Stephen Grobmyer, the director of surgical oncology at the Cleveland Clinic. "I think not enough emphasis has been placed on the field of nanomedicine and not enough people have paid attention to its real potential."

To achieve their goal, the Cleveland Clinic is partnering with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem to create the Center for Transformative Nanomedicine. The Israel-based research institution developed the first successful nanotechnology drug in the 1990s to treat ovarian cancer. This new partnership is hoping to expand the use of these drugs to a wider array of diseases.

"Here you have two entities, world leaders in their particular areas ... joining forces to synergistically combat some of the problems that have eluded us," says Dr. Shy Arkin, the vice president of R&D at Hebrew University. His school is ranked among the world's most entrepreneurial schools and is also home to Albert Einstein's archives.

The new center will offer training and educational opportunities and develop new ways to deliver drugs to the human body. The two institutions will also host an upcoming conference, and its scientists will jointly collaborate on new research.

So what is nanomedicine? Nanotechnology is, in essence, the science of the small. "I'll give you a simple example of how small atoms are," says Arkin. "If you take the size of an apple and you compare that to Earth, that's the same ratio as an atom to an apple, just to give you an idea of how small these things are."

So imagine this: What if doctors had itty-bitty tools that could seek out and destroy the very first cancer cells developing in the body? Or what if molecule-sized pumps could be implanted in sick people to deliver life-saving medicines at the precise place – down to the cell – where they are needed? These are just some of the tools that nanomedicine can provide.

It also gives doctors the potential to detect diseases earlier as well as increasing the accuracy of diagnoses. "Nanotechnology revolutionizes what we're doing in the treatment of patients," said D. Geoffrey Vince, chair of biomedical engineering at the Cleveland Clinic. "It can really disrupt the way we deliver medicine because it allows us to give drugs and tailor them to just the site of action."

Want to learn more about the science behind nanomedicine? Check out this animated primer below:

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