It seems that cannabis can treat everything- from chronic pain to acne and even cancer. But as cannabinoids are known to degrade quickly, effective ways to deliver the compounds to where they are needed are limited. This is where nanotechnology may be able to help.
Nanotechnology is the branch of technology that deals with substances on an atomic scale- under 100 nanometers in size- or one thousand times thinner than a sheet of paper. At this scale, materials tend to have different properties to larger ones- including better electrical conductance, more strength, different chemical reactivity, and different magnetic properties.
Cannabinoids in nanotech products are made smaller through a process called emulsification, which involves mixing two liquids that typically can’t be mixed, like oil and water, into a stable compound. If you whisk oil and water very quickly, they’ll appear to dissolve into each other, but after a certain amount of time, the two substances will separate. A third ingredient called a surfactant can bind to the two otherwise immiscible liquids, and make it appear as if the oil and water are perfectly mixed. Mayonnaise, for example, is made through emulsification. Its core ingredients, oil, vinegar, and lemon juice, will be at odds with each other, so mayonnaise is made with egg yolk, which glues the oil, vinegar, and lemon juice together.
As such, one of the most relevant uses of nanotechnology when looking at cannabis is the delivery method. In this case, nanoparticles can be engineered to deliver substances directly to specific cells like diseased cancer cells, limiting their ability to bind with and damage healthy cells.
Scientists have already shown that synthetic cannabinoids delivered by nanocarriers are more effective than conventional delivery methods for treating tumor cells both in Petri dishes and in mice. To do so, they developed nanoparticles to work together. One located the tumor and then notified the other to deliver the medicine to it.
Using nanotechnology to deliver medicine- in this case, cannabinoids- seems to provide two specific advantages. One is being able to target problem areas more accurately. The other is by improving the medicine’s bioavailability- the rate at which it enters the bloodstream. By creating a protective barrier between the meds and the body- usually by combining two liquids that don’t mix like oil and water- scientists can prevent the meds from degrading while moving through the body. This means it’s more intact to treat whatever illness it has been engineered to combat.