What are they? Microneedles have been highly touted in the drug delivery industry as of late. Hundreds of them can be placed on a single patch. They show promise in delivering flu shots, with other applications in diabetes, pain relief and, in the case of one Chinese company, the eradication of zits using microneedles to unclog pores. They could even deliver quantum dots to deeper layers of skin--useful for diagnosis and treatment of skin cancers,
Why is it groundbreaking? They're pain-free because they're so small and do not hit nerve endings, but can still deliver precise amounts of a drug or vaccine. They're great for needle-phobics, since the needles are too small to be seen with the naked eye. As easy to apply as a Band-Aid, microneedles should help improve patient compliance. They help avoid problems like GI irritation and variations in delivery rates due to the presence of food. And they also help protect health-care workers who would run less of a risk of accidentally poking themselves with larger needles.
Who's working on it:
- China-based Suzhou Natong Bionanotechnology is developing a 5 mm-square "MicroArray" patch that contains about 400 tiny needles with possible applications in diabetes and pain relief in addition to the eradication of zits. A product, LiteClear, is available in China that uses the microneedles to unclog pores. Report
- Researchers from North Carolina State University think they've found a way to deliver quantum dots into the body using tiny, specially fabricated, hollow microneedles. Report
- Researchers at Purdue University have developed a pump that can fit in 20-micron-diameter needles, which would go on patches to deliver a wider range of medication than is now possible. Report
- Georgia Tech and Emory University have tested on laboratory animals a vaccine-delivery patch containing hundreds of microneedles. Report
- And one imaging company is developing technology that it believes microneedle researchers need. Michelson Diagnostics, based in the U.K., is reporting that its VivoSight OCT imaging system was used to evaluate the performance of a new microneedle drug delivery technology by researchers at Queen's University Belfast. The research by Ryan Donnelly, published in the Journal of Controlled Release, shows how the VivoSight system was used to directly image the microneedles penetrating the skin. Those results helped evaluate how far apart the needles were spaced and how much force is required. Report