microneedle research

2012-08-13 09:47:05

Microneedle research began in the late 1990s and, fuelled by recent convergence in ICT (information and communications technologies) and healthcare, is only in recent years emerging from science and engineering laboratories as a potentially disruptive technology in modern medicine. It centres on painless perforation of the stratum corneum – the outermost skin layer that is largely composed of dead cells embedded in lipid bilayers and moisture. This layer is only 10-20microns thick, but poses a remarkable barrier to the passage of therapeutics, meaning that transdermal delivery is currently limited to a small number of low dose, low molecular weight drugs for the treatment of nicotine addiction, motion sickness, and hormone replacement therapy. Microneedles create tiny pores in the stratum corneum, thereby increasing its permeability several thousandfold, and because these devices are not long enough to stimulate the underlying nerve endings, use of microneedles is completely painless. Other advantages of microneedle-facilitated drug delivery include avoidance of the first-pass metabolic effect in the liver, high patient compliance, dose sparing, elimination of needle-stick injuries, and removal of the need for a trained healthcare practitioner.
Microneedles are available in either solid or hollow forms. Solid microneedles create transient micropores in the skin’s stratum corneum, thereby increasing the permeability of the barrier layer to large molecules by several orders of magnitude; formulations can be incorporated in dissolvable needles or in microneedle coatings, or simply topically applied to the skin before or after microneedle application. Hollow microneedles feature a narrow capillary through which therapeutic agents can be injected directly into the skin.
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