Knowledge is everything; it allows you to take the technologies of yesterday and use them in new and far more powerful ways. The movement of a single brick could change the course of history - if you just knew where, when and how to place it.
Here is a good example of the power of placement:
An atherosclerosis plaque results when a buildup of cholesterol, inflammatory cells and fibrous tissue forms inside an artery. If a plaque ruptures, it can block blood flow to the heart or brain, causing heart attack or stroke.
While growing, plaques require an influx of nutrients, fats and cells, so they develop their own blood supply -- minute blood vessels that grow within the wall of arteries and penetrate the plaque. Many believe that cutting off this blood supply could stabilize or reduce plaques. In previous studies, fumagillin has been shown to be an effective agent for stopping the process that creates new blood vessels.
Riding on the nanoparticles, fumagillin is carried to the site of new blood vessel formation and stays there thanks to a fellow nanoparticle passenger -- a component that fastens the nanoparticles to cells found in newly developing blood vessels. Stuck in this position, the nanoparticle drops its load of fumagillin, concentrating it at the site of the atherosclerotic plaque.
In this study, the single dosage of fumagillin each rabbit received was 50,000 times lower than the total fumagillin dose used in an earlier experiment by another research group and yet reduced the growth of new blood vessels in plaques by 60 to 80 percent.
Researchers involved in first generation nanomedicine - equal parts nanoscale manufacture, biotechnology and ingenuity, mixed and then applied to medicine - are turning out impressive technology demonstrations of this nature at a rapid pace. Simple, abandoned drugs of the past become effective agents when precisely targeted to individual cells and microscopic locations in the body.
In essence, much of modern biotechnology is knowledge, positioning and targeting. With the enabling technologies of targeted delivery in hand, making changes doesn't require any further component much more complex than a brick. All the complexity is elsewhere: in manufacturing intricate nanoparticles; in the vast bioinformatics infrastructure; in our growing organized knowledge of biochemical mechanisms.
In the old school of drug discovery and development, it was all about the brick. Nowadays, the brick is almost the last thought in the process of developing new therapies - and we'll be the better for it.