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Risks and benefits of nanotechnology: How young adults perceive possible advances in nanomedicine compared with conventional treatments

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Attitudes to nanotechnology are widely studied and are changing fast. An experiment comparing young peoples' attitudes to nanomedicine and conventional treatment was conducted on 434 undergraduate students. They answered a number of questions about a hypothetical arthritis sufferer who was to be treated with a drug or a newly invented nanomedical technique, and requiring either one treatment or several. They were more influenced by the difference between one-shot and repeated treatments than by any difference between drug- and nanodelivery. Furthermore the two treatments that seemed most negative to participants were a drug that had to be administered repeatedly, or a nanosystem that was needed only once. Participants preferred the thought of a drug that only had to be taken once, or else a nanosystem so gentle and progressive that it only took its full effect after several administrations. There was a consistent gender difference, with male participants taking a more positive view of the risks, benefits and achievements involved in the various treatments than the female participants.

Keywords: Nanotechnology; medicine; public understanding of science; risk; vignette study

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Institute for Science and Society, Biorisks and Society (IGBiS), University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK 2: School of Psychology, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK 3: Division of Primary Care, University of Nottingham, Graduate Medical School, Derby City General Hospital, Derby, UK

Publication date: June 1, 2007

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