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Nanotechnology

You can't see it, but soon it will be everywhere. Nanotechnology is the science of building microscopic devices at the molecular and atomic levels. In medicine, nanotechnology will be used to help with diagnosing and treating diseases. For example, tiny gold-coated "nanoshells" could act like smart bombs, zeroing in on a tumor, entering cancer cells, and lying in wait until an infrared beam or radio wave signals the particles to release an intense, deadly dose of heat energy that destroys the cancer cells.

Cancer patients often undergo radiation or chemotherapy treatments to kill cancer cells. But in the process, normal cells are killed as well, leaving the patient's immune system weak. Nanoparticles are able to "target" cancer cells, delivering the radiation or drugs to only these cells, while leaving normal cells untouched.

"Quantum dots" are miniscule fluorescent signals that can light up tumors and lymph nodes. This enables surgeons to remove the complete tumor or node during surgery. By using different color dots scientists can create a "barcode" to instantly classify the type of tumor found. Other tiny devices built onto microchips use nanotechnology to read single strands of DNA, much like a ticker tape. The technology is small, but the possibilities are enormous.