skin-patchMany people, especially children, are afraid of needles. However injectable drugs are a necessary evil for many reasons: some drugs can only be given via injection, whereas some drugs act faster when given in injectable form. Then there are instances where patients find it difficult to swallow pills for a number of medical reasons, and injectable drugs are the only option.

The skin patch with needles is not a new idea, but the older skin patches were not 100 percent effective as a great deal of the drug would be wasted, as the needles would not pierce the skin completely. The older patches were also more expensive to make. However, the new flexible microneedle patch offers faster medication delivery and reduced wastage as it allows drugs to be fully absorbed by the body. Unlike hypodermic injections, the microneedle patches use very small and very sharp needles that simply penetrate the outer layer of skin, not reaching the nerves so not causing any pain. The medicine simply enters the skin instead of entering the circulatory system.

How does the microneedle patch work?

The skin patch consists of needles act as rigid carriers of the drug while the patch itself is made of a water soluble substrate of a completely different chemical composition, using a fast micro-molding technique. The patch can be made in as little as five minutes, making it more cost effective to manufacture and, as the drug can be completely absorbed it is more efficient as well.

The new microneedle patch is based on research done by Professor Josepth DiSimone of the University of North Carolina on Particle Replication in Non-wetting Templates (PRINT) technology. The microneedle flexible patch was developed by Lissett Bickford, an assistant professor and researcher of biomedical engineering and mechanical engineering at Wake Forest School of Biomedical Engineering, part of the Virginia Tech College of Engineering.

The patch that has embedded needles can be applied to the skin like a bandage; the needles pierce the skin and are made of fully dissolvable polymer. The drug is embedded in the needles and as the needles dissolve, they release the drug. What’s more the patch is easy to scale, malleable and results in minimal drug wastage. The shape and size of the patch can be modified for ease of use and for delivering specific quantities of the drug.

The microneedle patch is an effective way of dispensing cancer drugs. This new drug delivery system also has potential to be used in drugs for children, in particular vaccinations.


Science World Report

Virginia Tech Wake Forest University

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