Nanomedicine, Volume I: Basic Capabilities

© 1999 Robert A. Freitas Jr. All Rights Reserved.

Robert A. Freitas Jr., Nanomedicine, Volume I: Basic Capabilities, Landes Bioscience, Georgetown, TX, 1999


Preface & Acknowledgments

Molecular nanotechnology has been defined as the three-dimensional positional control of molecular structure to create materials and devices to molecular precision. The human body is comprised of molecules, hence the availability of molecular nanotechnology will permit dramatic progress in human medical services. More than just an extension of "molecular medicine," nanomedicine will employ molecular machine systems to address medical problems, and will use molecular knowledge to maintain and improve human health at the molecular scale. Nanomedicine will have extraordinary and far-reaching implications for the medical profession, for the definition of disease, for the diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions including aging, for our very personal relationships with our own bodies, and ultimately for the improvement and extension of natural human biological structure and function.

Nanomedicine, the book, will be published in three Volumes over the course of several years. The present Volume is the first in this series. Readers wishing to keep abreast of the latest developments may visit the nanomedicine website maintained by the Foresight Institute ( and may visit, the first commercial Internet domain exclusively devoted to nanomedicine and the online home of this document. To date, the author has expended ~19,000 manhours, plus ~1000 manhours by reviewers, a total of ~10 man-years of effort.

To hold the book to a manageable length, most technical discussions have been greatly abbreviated, usually omitting lengthy historical surveys and extensive derivations or proofs of formulas, but providing useful pointers to the relevant specialist literature. Equations are presented, whenever possible, with sufficient qualifications to enable the reader to determine the extent of applicability in a given circumstance; however, complete derivations are rarely provided. Care should be taken in applying these mathematical relationships, since in some cases their applicability to submicron systems, while anticipated, has not yet been definitively established by experiment. With more than 270 mathematical equations in this Volume, it was impossible to maintain strict usage consistency of variables across Chapters, although some effort was made to achieve such consistency within individual Chapters. Clarity is enhanced by defining all variables and constants near or immediately after each usage in an equation. In this book, the symbol "~" signifies "approximately," and scientific exponential notation appears throughout. Cubic volumes are sometimes specified as, for example, (1 nm)3 to signify a 1 nm3 block. Conversions among various units (which were chosen to maximize interdisciplinary understanding) are summarized in Appendix A; common abbreviations, measurement units, and prefixes employed in the text may also be found in Appendix A.

References [####] are used in this book to denote the source of:

1. a direct quotation (enclosed in quotes),

2. a lightly or heavily paraphrased passage (footnoted but not enclosed in quotes), or

3. a specific datum.

Citations are also employed to indicate sources of additional information on a given topic, especially literature review papers. The author apologizes in advance for any inadvertent instances of unattributed usage of previously published material; such events should be few but should be brought to the author's immediate attention for correction in a future edition of this work. An attempt was made to cite primary sources whenever possible, but some references are made to secondary sources believed by the author to be reliable. Unreferenced intext attributions to specific named people generally refer to comments made by a technical reviewer of the manuscript, as a personal communication.


Naturally I am replete with gratitude to many people and organizations, but my first thanks must go to K. Eric Drexler. I honor Eric for his original vision of the revolution in future medicine that molecular nanotechnology will inevitably bring; for patiently yet doggedly pursuing that vision during the long hard years when this position was not yet scientifically popular; and for describing the inspirational concept of cellular repair machines in his popular writings8,9 and then offering detailed technical engineering analysis of molecular machine components, devices, and systems in Nanosystems,10 a textbook which has established high standards of scholarship and has paved the way for all future research in this area.

Next, I would like to thank the following 77 people for providing useful references, preprints, publications or information, helpful discussions or newsgroup postings, personal communications, or other assistance related to the project: Rehal Bhojani, Forrest Bishop, Frank Boehm, Jonathan Boswell, Robert J. Bradbury, Claud A. Bramblett, Donald W. Brenner, Fred and Linda Chamberlain, Thomas M.S. Chang, M.D., Scott R. Chubb, Sharon Churchill, Philip G. Collins, Andrew Czarn, Jerry A. Darsey, Thomas Donaldson, K. Eric Drexler, William L. Dye, Mark Dyer, Robert I. Eachus, James von Ehr, James C. Ellenbogen, Gregory M. Fahy, David R. Forrest, Berry Fowler, M.D., John Gilmore, James L. Halperin, Jie Han, Barbara and Danny Haukedalen, Dan Heidel, Tad Hogg, Neil Jacobstein, Ted Kaehler, Jeffrey D. Kooistra, Tobias A. Knoch, Markus Krummenacker, Ronald G. Landes, M.D., Kevin Leung, Eric W. Lewis, M.D., James B. Lewis, David Mathes, Ralph C. Merkle, Richard Nakka, Philippe Van Nedervelde, Vik Olliver, Michael Park, Christine L. Peterson, Christopher J. Phoenix, Frederik Pohl, Virginia Postrel, Patrick Salsbury, Tilman E. Schaffer, J. David Schall, Nadrian C. Seeman, Paul E. Sheehan, Brian Shock, John A. Sidles, Richard Smith, Jeffrey Soreff, Edmund Storms, Carey Sublette, Richard P. Terra, Tihamer TothFejel, James M. Tour, Werner Trabesinger, Robert E. Tuzun, Ty S. Twibell, Francisco Valdes, William Ware, James Brent Wood, Christian P. Worth; four anonymous referees of early versions of my now-published "respirocytes"1400 paper; and, finally, the one person whose name I have inadvertently but inexcusably omitted.

I also thank Conrad Schneiker153 for his highly useful summary of the early history of nanotechnology, which I leaned on rather heavily in Section 1.3.2; Roy Porter, from whose excellent history of medicine2204 I borrowed extensively in Section 1.2.1; W.J. Bishop, whose fine book on the history of surgery2158 provided most of the material for the first six paragraphs of Chapter 1, and substantial material for Section 1.2.1 as well; and the Foresight Institute for establishing and maintaining the first nanomedicine website, under the technically savvy webmastering of James B. Lewis.

I extend my heartfelt thanks to the 48 individuals listed below who reviewed or commented on all or part of various Chapters in Volume I (total number in parentheses): Douglas Berger, M.D. (1), Forrest Bishop (2), Robert J. Bradbury (8), David Brin (1), Fred Chamberlain (2), Linda Chamberlain (1), Gino J. Coviello (2), Andrew Czarn (1), Thomas Donaldson (1), K. Eric Drexler (6), William L. Dye (2), Martin Edelstein (1), Gregory M. Fahy (2), Steven S. Flitman, M.D. (1), Tim Freeman (1), Thomas W. Gage (2), Al Globus (2), J. Storrs Hall (2), Jan H. Hoh (1), Christopher Jones (3), Tanya Jones (2), Ted Kaehler (1), Tobias A. Knoch (1), Markus Krummenacker (7), Sarma Lakkaraju (1), Ronald G. Landes, M.D. (10), Eugene Leitl (1), James B. Lewis (8), James Logajan (5), David Mathes (4), Thomas McKendree (3), Ralph C. Merkle (10), Hans Moravec (1), Max More (1), Kenneth Philipson, M.D. (1), Christopher J. Phoenix (10), Virginia Postrel (1), Edward M. Reifman, D.D.S. (1), Edward A. Rietman (6), Markus Roberts (1), Patrick Salsbury (3), Salvatore Santoli (3), Bruce Smith (4), Steven S. Smith (1), Jeffrey Soreff (8), Tihamer TothFejel (3), James M. Tour (1), and Steven C. Vetter (1). These reviewers are to be lauded for undertaking a difficult task and should be held blameless for any errors that remain in the manuscript; the author is solely responsible for all errors of fact or judgement within these pages. Reports of errata may be transmitted by mail to the author at the following physical address: Robert A. Freitas Jr., Institute for Molecular Manufacturing, 555 Bryant Street, Suite 253, Palo Alto, CA 94301 USA; or electronically to the author at the following Internet address:

My special thanks go to Robert J. Bradbury and Markus Krummenacker for particularly lengthy and detailed Chapter reviews, and for illuminating the often shadowy boundaries between biotechnology and nanotechnology; to Jeffrey Soreff for his stunningly insightful commentary and analysis of the most difficult technical concepts (on occasions almost too numerous to count), for his advice on equations and technical phraseology, and for several capsule descriptions of recent research results that are reported in Chapter 2; to Chris Phoenix for reading the entire manuscript with alacrity; to Ralph C. Merkle for his many years of sage technical advice and his unwavering encouragement when it was needed most; and to K. Eric Drexler and Ralph C. Merkle for generously contributing the Foreword and Afterword, respectively, to this Volume.

My very special thanks go to James L. Halperin, Ralph C. Merkle, many anonymous Senior Associates of the Foresight Institute, and other friends, family, and colleagues who generously provided financial support which enabled the author to complete this Volume; and to the Foresight Institute for establishing the Nanomedicine Book Fund.

I thank my publisher, Ronald G. Landes, M.D., for having the perspicacity to recognize the potential significance of nanomedicine, the trust in the author to impose no major constraints on substance, length or time, the fortitude to publish an unusual book of uncertain marketability in a difficult business environment, and the audacity to dare to present the material contained herein to medical and publishing colleagues for their serious consideration. I also applaud Cynthia Dworaczyk, Michelle Wamsley, Penny King, and the rest of the staff of Landes Bioscience for their excellent and professional work on this project, and Andreas Passens for the cover art.

Finally, and most importantly, I wish to thank my wife, Nancy Ann Freitas, and my parents, Robert A. Freitas Sr. and Barbara Lee Freitas, without whose help, understanding, and encouragement this book could not have been written.

Robert A. Freitas Jr.
Research Fellow
Institute for Molecular Manufacturing
15 April 1999


Last updated on 28 February 2003