While drug discovery has taken major strides in the past few decades, drug delivery is still a relatively static field. The vast majority of pharmaceuticals can only be delivered orally or intravenously; in the hospital, this poses a problem with patients who are nauseous, unable to take medications by mouth, and/or who lack IV access. Drug patches are already a useful noninvasive way to deliver treatment like pain medication, but their applicability for other therapeutics has been limited.
Now, as reported in the journal Advance Materials, bioengineers at the Virginia Tech-Wake Forest School of Biomedical Engingeering, led by Lissett Bickford, assistant professor and researcher of biomedical engineering and mechanical engineering, have developed a rapidly dissolvable microneedle-based drug delivery patch that they report to be highly scalable. In their study the researchers demonstrated the fabrication of reproducible and completely dissolvable polymer microneedles on flexible water-soluble substrates. These microneedles were made using a lithography process known as PRINT (developed by a University of North Carolina researcher) and showed efficacy in piercing both mouse and human skin samples and delivering a fluorescent compound to the tissue.
According to a Virginia Tech press release:
Bickford, with her research team, including Chapel Hill graduate student Katherine A. Moga, were able to develop a new flexible microneedle patch that forms to the skin directly — think a regular household bandage — and then fully pierces the skin and dissolves. Bickford said the softer, more malleable and water-soluble material also allows for more precise control over the shape, size, and composition of the patch, with little to no waste. The nanoparticle, micro-molding patch is based on Particle Replication In Non-wetting Templates (PRINT for short) technology…Unlike other methods for making these patches, the new technology allows for quicker and greater wide-scale production, reducing related costs.