Sander Olson was kind enough to point me to his two part interview (part one, part two) with Nanomedicine author and healthy life extension advocate Robert Freitas. Readers here will probably find the second portion of the interview to be more pertinent to advanced medical nanotechnology. Some excerpts:
If we combine the benefits of a human physiology maintained at the level of effectiveness possessed by our bodies when we were children (e.g., dechronification), along with the ability to deal with almost any form of severe trauma (via nanosurgery), then there are very few diseases or conditions that cannot be cured using nanomedicine. The only major class of incurable illness which nanorobots can't handle is the case of brain damage in which portions of your brain have been physically destroyed. This condition might not be reversible if unique information has been irrevocably lost (say, because you neglected to make a backup copy of this information). There are several other minor "incurable" conditions, but all of these similarly relate to the loss of unique information.
The availability of practical molecular manufacturing is an obvious and necessary precursor to the widespread use of medical nanorobotics. I would not be surprised if the 2020's are eventually dubbed the "Decade of Medical Nanorobots."
The greatest power of nanomedicine will emerge in a decade or two as we learn to design and construct complete artificial nanorobots using diamondoid nanometer-scale parts and subsystems including sensors, motors, manipulators, power plants, and molecular computers. The development pathway will be lengthy and difficult. First, theoretical scaling studies must be used to assess basic concept feasibility. These initial studies would then be followed by more detailed computational simulations of specific nanorobot components and assemblies, and ultimately full systems simulations, all thoroughly integrated with additional simulations of massively parallel manufacturing processes from start to finish consistent with a design-for-assembly engineering philosophy. Once molecular manufacturing capabilities become available, experimental efforts may progress from component fabrication and testing, to component assembly, and finally to prototypes and mass manufacture, ultimately leading to clinical trials.
As of 2005, progress in medical nanorobotics remains largely at the concept feasibility stage - since 1998, the author has published four theoretical nanorobot scaling studies, including the respirocytes (artificial red cells), microbivores (artificial white cells), clottocytes (artificial platelets), and the vasculoid (an artificial vascular system). These studies have not been intended to yield an actual engineering design for a future nanomedical product. Rather, the purpose was merely to examine a set of appropriate design constraints, scaling issues, and reference designs to assess whether or not the core idea might be feasible, and to determine key limitations of such designs.
If advanced nanotechnology and molecular manufacturing are of interest to you, then you should add the Responsible Nanotechnology blog to your watch list and make the time to read through the Foresight Nanotech Institute and Center for Responsible Nanotechnology websites.
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