Nanotechnology, when specifically applied to the field of medicine, qualifies as nanomedicine. The term is pretty broad and encompasses several medical applications of nanomaterials as well as nanoelectronic biosensors. A nanometer is the millionth part of a millimeter, and it is almost impossible for human beings to even imagine working with materials with such dimensions. However, the medicine fraternity across the globe has succeeded in performing research of much worth, working with nanomaterials and nanoelectronic biosensors. The US National Institute of Health is the leading body funding research and development in nanomedicine. The funding of a five year plan in 2005, aimed at setting four nanomedicine centers in the country is still counted among the most noted efforts made by a body to promote progress in nanomedicine.
Pregnancy and nanomedicine have had some interesting associations in the recent past, with nanotechnology playing a part in some pregnancy tests. Such techniques are not widely used, and are still undergoing refinements. United States and Canada are two counties where the techniques involving nanoparticles to conduct pregnancy tests have been employed with a fair degree of reliability and success. Gold nanoparticles have been used on the test sticks of some home pregnancy kits to conduct tests. Urine of pregnant women has its characteristic composition with the presence of certain hormones which are most active when a woman is 10 weeks pregnant. These hormones change the environment of the gold nanoparticles and cause observable differences in their behavior. Depending upon the toxicity of the gold nanoparticles and their environmental interactions, there are certain expected results as regards the agglomeration, or the clumping together, of these nanoparticles. The cluster formation decides the light absorbed by the cluster, and this characteristic is measurable.
In case of pregnant women, the gold nanoparticles bind to each hormone, and these clusters present different colors from the unclustered gold nanoparticles. If the size of the cluster so formed is optimal, the corresponding light absorbance changes. With the knowledge of how the absorbed light changes with cluster size, scientists and medical experts can design biosensors in a way so that the optimal sized clusters result. Of course, the suitability of the nanoparticles for use in biosensors is another important parameter kept in mind by researchers. The method of measuring cluster size distribution and the light absorption measurements following that has been devised by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Ensuing research is bound to make the processes more refined and this would ultimately lead to the development of highly conclusive pregnancy tests. However, there is another side to the coin as well. New technologies come with their downsides, and there is every reason to be careful against the possibilities of nanoparticles leading to undesired side effects in the human body. Researchers and scientists dealing with nanomedicine are faced with some pressing issues, primarily those concerning toxicity and the adverse impact on the environment resulting from the human interaction with nanoscale materials.