The rise of the nanomedic

TOMORROW'S JOBS: The coming breed of medical professionals is going to need extremely small hands and big brains.

by Andrew Saunders
Last Updated: 20 Oct 2016
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Innovation

The 21st century tide of disruption is rapidly sweeping away the jobs that sustained the 20th century economy. But automation also means opportunity. Last time in MT's series on the jobs of tomorrow, it was data scientists. Next up: nanomedics.

Why?

Because very small medicine is going to be very big business - the global nanomedicine market is predicted to be worth over $500m by 2019. Medicine will increasingly escape the clinical environment of the hospital and surgery, becoming something that we all carry around in us instead.

What?

Nanomedicine is medicine conducted on the nanometre-scale (a nanometre being equal to one billionth of a metre). Precisely the size range on which most of our vital biological processes are carried out, within the 37 trillion or so cells that make up the average human being.

Much of what we have learned about the nano-world so far comes from high-tech manufacturing and theoretical physics, so nanomedics are inter-disciplinary types who combine medical and physiological expertise with an appreciation of the weird and wonderful behaviour of very small things.

How?

The ultimate goal of nanomedics everywhere is the production of sub-microscopic therapeutic machines that patrol our insides looking for baddies - think of an impossibly tiny Terminator swimming around zapping cancer cells, for example.

If that sounds like sci-fi it probably is, for now at least. But even though the discipline is in its infancy, big strides are being made using nanoparticles to increase the effectiveness of drug delivery, and so-called Quantum Dots to boost the quality and resolution of scanner images.

The small print

Like any new field, there is a risk that nanomedicine will fail to live up to the hype. This is a STEM-heavy environment - so if maths, physics and chemistry were your least favourite A levels, look elsewhere.

Image credit: rogeriopfm/Wikipedia

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