Why is Nanotechnology A Dirty Word in the UK?

We have mentioned the UK’s slightly odd approach to merging technologies in the past (usually involving talking rather than doing) and an editorial in this weeks Nature looks at the relationship between regenerative medicine and nanotechnology.

While just about everybody involved in regenerative medicine will understand the value of scaffolds – stem cells don’t just grow into a new windpipe or heart valve without a template – the Nature editorial notes that the recent paper Taking Stock of Regenerative Medicine in the United Kingdom published by the UK government’s Office of Life Sciences ‘frames useful materials research solely in terms of engineering scaffolds for delivery and application.”

In doing so, the government misses an opportunity to outline a remit to investigate materials and the way they control stem cells. Such an approach would help biomedical engineers to design scaffolds and matrices with cell behaviour as a priority, rather than an afterthought.

And although the paper in Nature Materials and the engineered trachea (both UK-based research efforts) show that nanotechnology is important to all areas of regenerative medicine, the word nanotechnology does not feature once in the report’s 58 pages.

It is a mystery why nanotechnology is such a dirty word in the UK, perhaps Prince Charles has more influence over science policy than was thought?

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