Microneedles Could Replace Syringe

March 10, 2008
Microneedles Could Replace Syringe
Side view of PVP polymer microneedles with sulforhodamine encapsulated within microneedles. Each microneedle measures 750 µm in height, 250 µm in base diameter, and 5 µm in tip radius. Credit: Advanced Materials, 2008.

The common needle phobia and painful injections could soon be a thing of the past, thanks to a revolutionary new drug-delivery technique developed by a team at the Georgia Institute of Technology, US. The long-practiced method of drug administration has up to now involved the use of hypodermic needles but they have many drawbacks, including pain, risk of infection, and the need for trained staff to perform the injection.

The very few non-invasive methods of drug delivery, such as the transdermal patch, best known in its role as the smokers' nicotine patch, are unsuitable for most drugs as only very small molecules can be transported across intact skin, which excludes the large biotherapeutic molecules found in many medicines.

But what if there was another way, one that was as safe and painless as a patch but as fast and effective as an injection? In a revolutionary new study published in this month's Advanced Materials, the researchers at Georgia Tech. have designed tiny "microneedles", only five micrometers wide at the tip, which can quickly and painlessly deliver drugs into the body and are as effective as a hypodermic.

The drug, in the form of biomolecules, is encapsulated within the microneedles, which are then inserted into the skin in the same way that nicotine is released into the bloodstream from a patch. The needles dissolve within minutes, releasing the trapped cargo at the intended delivery site. They do not need to be removed and no dangerous or biohazardous substance is left behind on the skin.

The researchers chose the mechanically strong polymer poly(vinyl pyrrolidone) (PVP) to fabricate the microneedles because it is robust enough to pierce the skin, dissolves quickly, and is harmless to the body. The molding technique used to prepare the needles means that the rate at which they dissolve can be precisely tuned, depending on how much time is needed for them to travel through the body to the delivery site.

This innovative new treatment method means that vaccines, proteins, and hormones could soon be delivered into the body as effortlessly and painlessly as wearing a plaster. So could needle phobia soon be a thing of the past?

"We expect that microneedles will be able to replace hypodermic needles in some scenarios, but certainly not all cases," said Dr. Mark Prausnitz, who headed up the research. "They won't be useful for withdrawing significant quantities of blood for analysis, for example."

However, the team does expect that the microneedles will have important medical and biotechnology applications. "They are a useful way to deliver vaccines," explained Prausnitz. "Microneedles could possibly enable self-administration of the annual flu vaccine and a number of drugs, including insulin and growth hormone."

Article information: Advanced Materials, 2008, 20, 933; doi: 10.1002/adma.200701205

Source: by Sophie Ladden, Wiley

Explore further: Could dissolvable microneedles replace injected vaccines?

Related Stories

Could dissolvable microneedles replace injected vaccines?

July 14, 2015

Flu vaccines delivered using microneedles that dissolve in the skin can protect people against infection even better than the standard needle-delivered vaccine, according to new research published in Biomaterials. The authors ...

New pump created for microneedle drug-delivery patch

September 1, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- Purdue University researchers have developed a new type of pump for drug-delivery patches that might use arrays of "microneedles" to deliver a wider range of medications than now possible with conventional ...

Microneedles enhance drug administration through skin

February 4, 2008

In what is believed to be the first peer-reviewed study of its kind involving human subjects, researchers at the University of Kentucky College of Pharmacy and the Georgia Institute of Technology have demonstrated that patches ...

Recommended for you

New device converts DC electric field to terahertz radiation

August 4, 2015

Terahertz radiation, the no-man's land of the electromagnetic spectrum, has long stymied researchers. Optical technologies can finagle light in the shorter-wavelength visible and infrared range, while electromagnetic techniques ...

The resplendent inflexibility of the rainbow

August 4, 2015

Children often ask simple questions that make you wonder if you really understand your subject. An young acquaintance of mine named Collin wondered why the colors of the rainbow were always in the same order—red, orange, ...

Rogue wave theory to save ships

July 29, 2015

Physicists have found an explanation for rogue waves in the ocean and hope their theory will lead to devices to warn ships and save lives.

3 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

sheber
not rated yet Mar 10, 2008
Finally, the 21st century may see an end to the sadistic practice of shoving several large needles into babies thighs!!!
googleplex
not rated yet Mar 11, 2008
Ditto.
PVP appears to be safe so long as it's pure and not de-polymerized back to its monomer. The monomer is very bad. http://en.wikiped...povidone
weewilly
not rated yet Mar 11, 2008
This scares me when you think about what has happened in a mighty big way in Las Vegas recently. How will any patient ever know if it is safe and germ free??? Will it be an improvement or will this be a source of worry for us as short cuts are used by our long trusted Medical professionals. Some trust huh?

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.