For over a century, each year has been marked by extraordinary progress in both medicine and biotechnology. Just one hundred years ago, Nicholay Anichkov made the earliest link between cholesterol and atherosclerosis, and Ernest Rutherford and Niels Bohr presented their models—physical and quantum—of the atom. 2013 will not only keep up pace, but will mark an extraordinary period of growth and development in the field of nanodermatology. The Nanodermatology Society (NDS) is declaring 2013 as the "Year of Topical Delivery."
"We have reached a tipping point," comments Dr. Adnan Nasir , President of the NDS, "where hard-won advances in biology, medicine, and manufacturing have come to fruition." Delivery of medication to and through the skin has long been known to confer multiple advantages over oral or intravenous routes. When medicines enter the skin, they avoid the damaging and limiting effects of liver metabolism, which can reduce the effectiveness of a medication or alter it so that its end products have toxic or allergic effects. Furthermore, while many drugs can have system wide side effects, these unwanted interactions can also be limited through direct, target delivery. "When treating skin disease in particular, topical application gets high concentrations of medication straight to their site of action, whereas oral ingestion may deliver only a fraction of medication to the skin. Topical therapies can be designed to act locally, for example on a wound or a skin rash, or distantly, for example by conferring immunity against the flu virus," says Dr. Nasir
"Several therapeutic areas in particular will make great strides this year through nanodermatology, such as the topical delivery of vaccines, gene therapy, antimicrobials, and anti-inflammatory agents," says Dr. Adam Friedman , Vice President of the NDS. Vaccines delivered to the skin can have powerful effects on the immune system, and importantly, doses can be reduced and responses can be increased to promote strong immunity against tumors and invading infection. Nano/microneedles and patches are already being standardized for vaccine delivery and have been developed for the flu vaccine. Gene therapy which traditionally has required injections or infusions, now through nanodelivery systems, can deliver DNA and functional RNA to activate and suppress genes through the skin. The various targets for gene therapy include genetic diseases, inflammatory diseases, allergies, tumors, and wound healing. Infections caused by multi-drug resistant bacteria such as methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and Acinetobacter baumanni have been on the rise in the past decade and pose a serious threat to patients and the health care system. Nanodermatology is enhancing both the delivery and efficacy of known established antimicrobial agents, as well as allowing for the delivery of more volatile substances, such as nitric oxide, to active areas of infection. "While dermatology stands to benefit tremendously from the utilization of nanotechnology, these developments can be extended well beyond our specialty to improve the management and treatment of diseases ranging from diabetes to peripheral vascular disease," says Dr. Friedman.
In addition to medical advances, nanotechnology has and continues to represent a vehicle through which consumer products, especially in dermatology, can be optimized and more effectively delivered to and through the skin. Dr. Steven Wang , Secretary of the NDS, comments, "A very exciting but thus far limited area is the use of antioxidants in conjunction with sunscreens for added photoprotection. The challenge is to deliver an adequate amount of these antioxidants actives through the stratum corneum and attain the needed bioavailability to enhance skin's natural ability in neutralizing free radicals. Nanotechnology will be helpful in this effort and overcome many of these impediments."
"These developments are building on decades of work in biology, chemistry, molecular biology, and nanotechnology. It is anticipated that some of the first topically delivered agents for the treatment of skin and systemic disease will be forthcoming very soon," concludes Dr. Nasir.
The NDS is a non-profit organization founded in 2010 charged with monitoring nanotechnology as it relates to the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of skin disease and evaluating their potential benefits or pitfalls.
Full references for reviewed studies can be provided upon request.