Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

50+: Live Better, Longer

Font Size

FDA Prepares for Nanomedicine Revolution

Atomic-Scale Nanoparticles Promise New Era in Medicine
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

June 21, 2011 -- New technology now makes it possible to create atomic-scale drug particles, diagnostic tools, and biological medical devices -- and the FDA is struggling to regulate the fast-growing field.

Noting the "critical need to learn more" about the impact of nanotechnology on medicines and medical devices, the FDA has issued a warning that it intends to regulate the field -- and has asked for help in understanding the impact the new technology will have on FDA-regulated products.

It's a welcome development, says nanomedicine developer Gang Bao, PhD, director of the Center for Pediatric Nanomedicine, a joint project of the Georgia Institute of Technology, Emory University, and Children's Healthcare of Atlanta.

"It is a great thing that FDA now pays attention to nanotechnology," Bao tells WebMD. "We can always publish scientific papers, but what we really want to do is have nanomedicine used in the clinic: for drug delivery, diagnosis, or treatment using nanomachines. Without FDA approval we cannot do that. So therefore this is a very important advance."

Nanotechnology already is a trillion-dollar industry spanning fields from agriculture to product packaging. It springs from new technology that makes it possible to manipulate matter at the atomic scale. The application of this technology to medicine is truly revolutionary, says Jamey Marth, PhD, director of the Sanford Burnham Center for Nanomedicine at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

"It will be comparable to what occurred 50 or so years ago when Watson and Crick discovered the structure of DNA and its role in biology," Marth tells WebMD. "We are going to witness a huge increase in the understanding of disease and in the ability to treat, detect, and ultimately cure disease with nanomedicine."

What Is Nanomedicine?

It's difficult, but important, to grasp the scale of the nano world. A nanometer (nm) is a billionth of a meter. A single sugar molecule is 1 nm in diameter; the DNA helix is 2 nm in diameter. A typical virus is 75 nm in size. A red blood cell is 7,000 times larger than a nanometer.

"Why this size? Inside a living cell we have proteins, we have DNA molecules, etc., all on a nanoscale," Bao says.

1 | 2 | 3

Today on WebMD

Eating for a longer, healthier life.
woman biking
How to stay vital in your 50s and beyond.
womans finger tied with string
Learn how we remember, and why we forget.
man reviewing building plans
Do you know how to stay healthy as you age?
fast healthy snack ideas
how healthy is your mouth
dog on couch
doctor holding syringe
champagne toast
Two women wearing white leotards back to back
Man feeding woman
two senior women laughing