Ethics of nanotech


by gravenewworld
Tags: ethics, nanotech
gravenewworld
gravenewworld is offline
#1
Oct7-11, 05:22 PM
P: 1,389
I'm wondering because drug delivery and nanotech will be my primary area of research. Right now we have a professor at my school that has made breakthroughs in drug delivery across the mucosa in the lung with nanonparticles. Also, there is hordes of research with regards to DNA/RNA/drug delivery with nanoparticles that almost mimic the behavior of viruses, but since they are synthetic, are evading the immune system.


Would this be dangerous technology? I mean, it sounds extremely easy to weaponize it. Just package a nefarious strand of DNA/RNA into a nanoparticle delivery system that can easily be delivered into the lungs by inhalation and you could basically have airborne ebola, hanta, or whatever other nefarious piece of DNA you could package into a nanoparticle delivery system. Not only would it be airborne, it would be able to easily evade the body's immune system. So what would stop someone from weaponizing any of the nanoparticle technology that is being heavily researched?
Phys.Org News Partner Biology news on Phys.org
Chickens to chili peppers: Scientists search for the first genetic engineers
The malaria pathogen's cellular skeleton under a super-microscope
Deadly human pathogen Cryptococcus fully sequenced
Ryan_m_b
Ryan_m_b is offline
#2
Oct8-11, 04:46 AM
Mentor
Ryan_m_b's Avatar
P: 5,341
Quote Quote by gravenewworld View Post
but since they are synthetic, are evading the immune system.
This isn't technically true, even synthetic compounds are recognised by the body and can induce an immune response. Also a lot of nanoparticle delivery systems are infact biological rather than synthetic such as liposomal delivery systems.

As for the weaponising this is something that is key to all science. But to be honest in the case of nanomedicine I think there is far more potential benefit than harm, reason being that we don't have adequate medicines for a wealth of conditions but we've had adequate chemical, biological and nuclear weapons of mass destruction for some time. Why bother going to the trouble of using some advanced and expensive nanoparticle delivery system when you could just easily insert the gene for NDM1 into a particuarly spreadable bacteria and release it on the target population.

There is nothing that nanomedicine (at least any nanomedicine we have on the drawing board at the moment) gives to biological warfare that we couldn't already do.
bobze
bobze is offline
#3
Oct8-11, 12:09 PM
Sci Advisor
PF Gold
P: 640
Quote Quote by Ryan_m_b View Post
This isn't technically true, even synthetic compounds are recognised by the body and can induce an immune response. Also a lot of nanoparticle delivery systems are infact biological rather than synthetic such as liposomal delivery systems.

As for the weaponising this is something that is key to all science. But to be honest in the case of nanomedicine I think there is far more potential benefit than harm, reason being that we don't have adequate medicines for a wealth of conditions but we've had adequate chemical, biological and nuclear weapons of mass destruction for some time. Why bother going to the trouble of using some advanced and expensive nanoparticle delivery system when you could just easily insert the gene for NDM1 into a particuarly spreadable bacteria and release it on the target population.

There is nothing that nanomedicine (at least any nanomedicine we have on the drawing board at the moment) gives to biological warfare that we couldn't already do.
Seconded here Ryan. When I read this I thought of positive sense RNA viruses (or even negative ones, you make positive templates for). The spread of said RNA would be infectious and you could do it with an single stranded virus. Far, far easier than going to the trouble of using a new (unproven) expensive technology.

thorium1010
thorium1010 is online now
#4
Oct8-11, 12:33 PM
P: 198

Ethics of nanotech


Quote Quote by Ryan_m_b View Post
As for the weaponising this is something that is key to all science. Why bother going to the trouble of using some advanced and expensive nanoparticle delivery system when you could just easily insert the gene for NDM1 into a particuarly spreadable bacteria and release it on the target population.
Just to be clear here this particular gene NDM1 . This particular gene gives it the ability to tackle powerful antibiotics in an already infected person . whether this could lead to a pandemic, not very sure. But there are other antibiotics which can be used to tackle these. Only that they are few of them and more expensive .
Cadman
Cadman is offline
#5
Nov2-11, 12:53 PM
P: 4
Examining nanotechnology in the light of ethical decision-making will help us to answer questions such as:
Do we need to create and enforce global laws for its development?
How do we minimize potential dangers, such as weaponry uses?
Is it our duty to share research with other nations?
How can we ensure that technology is used for the common good?
Ryan_m_b
Ryan_m_b is offline
#6
Nov2-11, 01:06 PM
Mentor
Ryan_m_b's Avatar
P: 5,341
Quote Quote by Cadman View Post
Do we need to create and enforce global laws for its development?
Whilst not global there are regulations that span nations, particularly in the EU. I'm not sure that global law enforcement is actually possible though considering there is no global police force. I'm also not sure what you want these laws to actually be.
Quote Quote by Cadman View Post
How do we minimize potential dangers, such as weaponry uses?
Weapons will, depressingly, always be built. But as I've said elsewhere weapons using nanotechnology will not be any worse than the chemical, biological and nuclear ones that we have already built. Though I do agree that curbing weapons development and use in the world is a valuable goal.
Quote Quote by Cadman View Post
Is it our duty to share research with other nations?
Depends, which nation are you from and which nation are you talking about? Bare in mind that a lot of research is published in public, peer-reviewed journals that transcend nation barriers.
Quote Quote by Cadman View Post
How can we ensure that technology is used for the common good?
There are two routes that spring to mind; funding (from both public and private sources) and regulation to enable worthwhile research to be done.


Register to reply

Related Discussions
I want to go into the field of nanotechnology. I know you need a Career Guidance 2
Jobs for people with a PHD in philosophy/ethics/bio-ethics... Career Guidance 2
how close we are as to being able to utilize nanobots? Engineering Systems & Design 6
schools in Canada that offer Nanotechnology as a grad program? Academic Guidance 3