Many of the predicted future benefits arising from advances in neurotechnology and other transhuman developments are grounded in the continuing success of research in the broad field of nanotechnology.
A particularly critical aspect of this research is the development of nanoparticles that would independently operate inside the human body. A lot of research is already underway on developing very tiny capsules that will one day float around in our bodies and drop off exact doses of drugs to a specific cell. One day, we will have pint-sized nanobots with full on-board electronics that will maneuver through our circulatory system looking for tissues to repair, cells to manipulate, and observations to report back to the host. In the following computer-generated animation, a hypothetical nanobot approaches a damaged neuron to take over its function and jack into the network:
The prospects for this sort of technology might be exciting, and even a little scary. But, for right now, it is important to think about how the human body will actually get along with the nano-invaders. Will our immune system go into overdrive to try to stop the little buggers? Will we need to engineer an evolutionary leap to develop new symbiotic relationships with metallic pellets that are just trying to be beneficial to our survival?
Three researchers from North Carolina State University are addressing this important issue, which needs to be resolved before any real human trials with nanoparticles are implemented. Dr. Jim Riviere, Dr. Nancy Monteiro-Riviere, and Dr. Xin-Rui Xia are collaborating in the search for a way to pre-screen a nanoparticle’s characteristics in order to predict how it will behave once inside the body.
As soon as any foreign object slips into the human body, our immune system kicks into high gear. Everything that is native to a body is essentially key-coded with a biological pass that tells any immune response “I’m OK to be here, thank you!” If something inside isn’t properly coded, then a rapid kill response is launched through a biochemical cascade of the complement system, which then attacks the surface of unrecognized cells and objects with a variety of binding proteins.
This natural response is something that we want to avoid when voluntarily injecting ourselves with nanobots. Clearly we need to understand the biochemistry of the interactions between nanoparticles and our tissues, and use this characterization to correctly modify the nano-stuff to stay functional while surfing in the bloodstream, if we are going to achieve the targeted fixing of body and brain predicted by so many futurists.
“Predicting how nanoparticles will react in the human body” PhysOrg.com, August, 15, 2010