Nanotechnology and Dermatology Education in the United States: Data From a Pilot Survey

September 2011 | Volume 10 | Issue 9 | Original Article | 1037 | Copyright © 2011

Adam Friedman MDa and Adnan Nasir MDb

aDivision of Dermatology, Albert Einstein University College of Medicine, Bronx, NY bDepartment of Dermatology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC

Abstract

Background: Nanotechnology is a rapidly growing discipline with important implications for consumers, patients, physicians and investigators. In an era when nanotechnology is being both incorporated into educational requirements for medical fields such as radiology and oncology and vigorously pursued and developed by cosmeceutical companies, dermatology is falling behind. A survey was conducted to ascertain knowledge, attitudes and perception of nanotechnology in dermatology teaching programs.
Methods: To ascertain baseline knowledge, attitudes and preceptions regarding nanotechnology among dermatology trainees, dermatology investigators and dermatology faculty in US academic medical centers, an online survey was sent out to random members of the dermatology community and data analyzed (100 participants, 23% response rate). Participants responded to a questionnaire on a five-point scale ranging from strongly disagree, disagree, uncertain, agree, to strongly agree. Due to the low response rate, strongly disagree/disagree and strongly agree/agree values were combined and compared to uncertain responses.
Results: Approximately equal numbers of faculty vs. chief residents responded to the survery (52% vs. 47.75%, respectively). The majority of respondents had not previously attended any educational activity on nanotechnology (69.57%). The majority of participants agreed that more education on nanotechnology for dermatologists is needed (78.26% agreed vs. 21.74% uncertain) and that it should be incorporated into the residency training curriculum (60.87% agree vs. 13.04% disagree). Participants mostly agreed that nanotechnology research can contribute to better fundamental understanding of skin disease (78.26%), to advances in the diagnosis of skin disease (73.91%) and to therapies (78.26%). Participants mostly agreed that more research is needed (82.60%) and that this research should be funded (78.26%). Not surprisingly, respondents were uncertain with respect to issues of nanotechnology safety both in the pharmaceutical realm (60.87%) and cosmeceutical realm (69.57%). Furthermore, the overwhelming majority responded that research is also needed to evaluate nanomaterial safety (86.96%).
Limitations: Both the populations size and response rate were low, possibly affecting the power and significance of the results in this study.
Conclusion: The survey results indicate a significant gap in dermatology training. Participants indicated a need for more training and education in the area of nanotechnology, and called for more research to evaluate the potential pitfalls associated with nanomaterials as well and to seek new advances in diagnostic and therapeutic modalities.

J Drugs Dermatol. 2011;10(9):1037-1041.

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INTRODUCTION

Nanotechnology is a rapidly growing field that capitalizes on the unique properties of matter on a small scale in order to create materials, products and devices with novel features.1 Nanotechnology has already made significant inroads in industry and the consumer market.2 Advances in nanomedicine are reaching an inflection point and are expected to yield novel diagnostic and therapeutic modalities in the near future. Skin is the first line of defense and the first point of contact for the majority of nanomaterials. While other areas of medicine, such as oncology3 and diagnostic radiology4 incorporate nanotechnology teaching, education and research in their curricula, dermatology has lagged in this area.

Dermatology training in medical school to date is already limited.5 Dermatology training at the postgraduate level requires mastery of many disciplines, including general medical dermatology, pediatric dermatology, dermatologic pathology, surgical dermatology and the fundamentals of cosmetic dermatology.6,7 Some dermatology training programs include dedicated time for research projects to allow for in-depth coverage or to broaden knowledge in one particular area. A brief review of scientific and medical conferences dedicated to dermatology over the past several years in the United States and Europe reveals scant coverage of nanotechnology related to dermatology. This is surprising in that some of the leading patent holders in nanotechnology are cosmetics companies.8 It is also notable that a large array of skin, hair and nail care products incorporating nanomaterials are already available. The most salient example is sunscreen.2,9 In addition to the numerous consumer and medical benefits envisioned by nanotechnology, investigators in areas such as toxicology have raised important safety concerns regarding nanomaterials.10-13 Given the importance and ubiquity of nanomaterials that have the potential

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