Brent, your questions are not ill-conceived. I was one of the reviewers for significant parts of Volumes I and II of Nanomedicine
. These are college/med school level textbooks outlining the various capabilities of nanotechnology applied to medicine. The author of these books, Robert Freitas, has written many articles describing various capabilities of different types of nanorobots. All of these may be reviewed at www.rfreitas.com.
These are peer-reviewed articles which have been accepted in various medical journals and so they can be trusted as valid (compared with comments by some physorg.com readers).
Now, with respect to some other comments. It is correct to state that *all* of biology *is* nanotechnology. All life is assembled atom by atom or small molecule by small molecule. Drexler even points this out in his first PNAS
paper. However biology is based on wet floppy nanotechnology while the kind discussed by Drexler and Freitas is dry stiff nanotechnology. Making the transition between them is not an easy task.
It is improper to view eukaryotic biology (plants, animals, algae, etc.) as being based on "nanorobobots" as the eukaryotic cells have dimensions an order of magnitude larger than those envisioned for nanorobots. Nanorobots should be viewed as the size of most bacteria. And it is highly undesirable to have bacteria circulating in the human body.
Now with respect to aging. We are beginning to understand what causes intrinsic aging and there are nanorobots conceived with capabilities to address them. Stem cells are a good intermediate step but the ultimate solution will likely require the capabilities that nanorobots can provide and stem cells cannot.
If you look at Wiki's nanorobotics article
you'll see them define nanorobots as having sizes of 0.1-10 micrometers. Since a red blood cell is 6-8 μm and a platelet is 1.5–3.0 μm, eukaryotic cells definitely can fall in the right size range. OTOH, the Wiki article on nanotechnology
says "Nanotechnology refers broadly to a field of applied science and technology whose unifying theme is the control of matter on the atomic and molecular scale, normally 1 to 100 nanometers...." That's what I find so frustrating about the field. It is so new and there are so many cranks, fanboys, and fraudsters attracted to it in addition to legitimate researchers , interested members of the public, and science fiction writers that that not only has it not defined itself very well, it is full of wild claims and misinformation. Robert Freitas might be a legitimate character in the field (note he has no degrees in any biology- or medicine-related field besides psychology), but in his page you linked to I saw this: "Contribute to the IMM Freitas Research Fund." Somehow it all comes down to money.
Another disturbing trend is the recent discovery that some nanoparticles are toxic, like carbon nanotubes
. It's hard to see how much progress in the medical benefits of nanoparticles there will be when there still isn't that much research on their hazards.
Your comments on aging are highly speculative, especially considering how stem cell research has been stifled. And when you say "will likely require the capabilities that nanorobots can provide" when nanorobots aren't currently providing any anti-aging capabilities yet, all I can do is roll my eyes
. The fountain of youth has been full snake oil before. Beware.
13th January 2008 - 10:52 PM
N O M
QUOTE (barakn @ Jan 14 2008, 08:51 AM)
|QUOTE (barakn @ Jan 14 2008, 08:51 AM)In the meantime, wear sunscreen, a floppy hat, a condom, and a bulletproof vest. |
All at once?
It depends on what your habits are
. It just sounded funnier than "lock the door and check for radon."
N O M
QUOTE (barakn @ Jan 14 2008, 08:51 AM)
|QUOTE (barakn @ Jan 14 2008, 08:51 AM) They already do what they can to repair damage, defend against viruses and cancer, etc., and if these tasks were easier than they actually are, evolution would have already come up with better methods. |
I don't agree with you here. Evolution is a fairly random approach, though it is provably effective. Unfortunately for us as individuals, evolution is about species survival not individual survival. It is not to a species advantage, even ours, for organisms to live too long.
A valid point. I'm sure nanotechnology will come up with things that our bodies are not currently doing for us. I'm just asking for a healthy dose of critical thinking and skepticism when considering some of the more outlandish claims. And don't rule out biology as a source of inspiration.
14th January 2008 - 08:15 PM
Remember that our genes are used system-wide, and so our 'biological nanotechnology' has to have utility for every part of the body that it's expressed.
For example, the same proteins are used in the kidneys that are used in the brain, even though they have different function and don't cross the Blood Brain Barrier. Evolution can't easily 'tweak' the kidney protein without risking the brain. But we can. We know the use of the protein in both areas, and we should be able to use nanotechnology to augment just one of those areas.
N O M
14th January 2008 - 09:05 PM
You have a good point there El_Machinae about how interconnected the body is. I find it fascinating that the lungs work as a gland to control how the kidneys maintain our electrolyt balance. Just one example of what you are saying.
Medical nanotech will allow us to localise, or even replace some of these mechanisms. We could gain control of the "fight or Flight" reaction that is the cause of a lot of stress. But we need to be careful, unless we turn ourselves into unemotional robots. [
14th January 2008 - 10:20 PM
>But we need to be careful, unless we turn ourselves into unemotional robots.
(sorry I couldn't resist, I'll just go sit back down over here somewhere)
28th January 2008 - 03:48 PM
It's tough turning yourself into an unemotional robot, because we tend to do thinks that we enjoy doing. We predict our current and future enjoyment of performing an act. So, we're unlikely to swallow a pill which will remove our future enjoyment of life
We even 'enjoy' higher-level cognition (i.e., thinking hard to solve a problem), but we don't enjoy doing that 24/7. So any 'upgrades' which enhance our cognition (at the cost of emotional flavour) will only be occassionally sampled.
29th January 2008 - 02:03 AM
The body already has nano-bots called white blood cells. They can target invaders and destroy. They can get skinny down and squeeze between cells to get their prey. They are even shape shifters able to stick out a finger process and grow into it. Or they can hop a ride in the blood stream and get off at the right stop. After a hardy meal, they find their way to places so they can rest and digest. They are tiny, able to fit in a modern nano-bots belt holes. The while blood cells may be a problem for modern nano-bots. They may converge, like ants on a grasshopper, and weigh it down trying to eat it.
30th January 2008 - 01:27 PM
That's why you cover the nanobot in a coating that is specific to your body. That way, the nanobot is recognised as your own.
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