Chinese company big on microneedles

The Wall Street Journal, in its report on Suzhou Natong Bionanotechnology’s microneedle technology, hits on an interesting problem in the drug-delivery world: Is it a device or a drug? Since often the delivery technology often enters the body along with the drug, the old categories often do not work.

Ignore, for the moment, the WSJ’s confusion in this article over whether the China-based company employs “nanoneedles” or microneedles--the article does a decent job of describing the potential benefits of this kind of drug-delivery technology.

The needles are so short that they poke holes in the skin but do not hit nerve endings or blood vessels, making the process painless. Each 5 mm-square “MicroArray” patch contains about 400 tiny needles.

While the article goes on to mention possible applications in diabetes and pain relief, it apparently has found a much lower-hanging fruit in the eradication of zits. A product, LiteClear, is available in China that uses the microneedles to unclog pores. The next huge hurdle for the tiny needles is regulatory approval in the United States.

- read the WSJ report