Scientist Henry “Hank” Pym is considered one of the most brilliant minds in the Marvel universe. During a laboratory experiment, he discovers the so-called “Pym particles”, which he seizes thanks to electro-magnetic fields in two serums, which are able to shrink and bring back to actual size the objects and people with whom they come into contact. Shrinking even to a microscopic level, he decides to study ants’ behaviour, equipping himself with a special helmet capable of interacting with them, becoming a real ant-man through and through.
But let’s now see in the real world how radiation can be involved in the development of nanotechnology and nanomedicine, offering to the medical physics specialist an ever-expanding field of research and development.
The development of nanotechnologies and nanomedicine is linked to the opportunity of an extremely focused therapy aimed at exclusively targeting cancer cells.
A nanometer is one billionth of a meter, about 80,000 times the thickness of a hair and it is on this scale that physicists work, with tools, materials and drugs capable of penetrating at cellular level. The nanoparticles are capable of selectively targeting specific cell types (such as cancer cells) thereby reducing damage to the nearby healthy cells. In addition to the therapeutic level, the nanoparticles are also of fundamental importance on the diagnostic level since they are able to bind to tumor cells and release bio-markers, essential for a correct identification of the disease.
In addition to research per se, the medical physicist also deals with image processing and quality, thus playing a fundamental role.
Given the highly interdisciplinary nature of this area, many doctors, biologists and medical physicists all join together in the fight against cancer.