Nanotechnology in the service of medicine
Russian nuclear physicists at the “Alpha” Research and Production Facility in Dubna have developed an advanced apparatus for plasmapheresis. There is no analogous apparatus elsewhere in the world. According to the developers, the purification of blood using nanotechnology saves the lives of Russians from atherosclerosis and many other serious illnesses.
There is a need to remove toxins from blood to treat atherosclerosis. The plasmapheresis removes cholesterol and lipoproteins that forms plaques in the inner lining of the arteries. Russians use only imported equipment to follow this procedure, and it costs about 1, 000 U.S. dollars per patient. The development by the scientists in Dubna makes the treatment accessible for a large number of patients since it is several times cheaper than the foreign technology.
The Russian scientists suggested using a nano-filter for plasmapheresis. It is made out of a film similar to one which is used in the food industry. The film is placed in a cyclotron where it is subjected to the bombardments of argon atoms. Then it is placed in alkaline to create nano-holes at the places where atoms hit it. In the end, we get a punched film with 200 nanometer diameter holes. In fact, the diameter of a hole is 250 times less than that of a hair.
When blood passes through such a membrane filter, it is separated into parts, erythrocytes settle on the membrane and plasma, the basic bearer of viruses and antibodies, is removed, says an expert at the “Alpha” Centre, Yuri Prytkov.
“Plasma passes through the membrane, and blood bodies are separated and return to the patient,” says Yuri Prytkov. "The “Alpha” Research and Production Facility has started producing these apparatuses, which are quite compact. In this case, a centrifuge is not used to separate blood, and consequently the apparatus can be used also in field conditions. This is portable equipment and experts can carry it to a patient and do plasmapheresis at his home. It can be used by the military, rescuers and services for disaster medicine.”
The state-run “Rosnano” is the co-investor of the project that has already allocated 1.3 billion rubles or 43 million U.S. dollars to implement it. This sum will be used to build a facility to start the production of the apparatuses for cascade plamapheresis. According to estimates, this sum will be paid off in 4-5 years. According to “Rosnano” the development by Dubna scientists is an example that Russia’s scientific potential is being turned onto the commercial track.