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New Microneedle Patch Provides for Painless Drug Delivery

Say goodbye to the excruciating injections!

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One of the most cringing things one can find at hospitals, clinics, and health centers is a syringe. Even if it barely touches the skin, the sight of it already gives a certain kind of horror that reminds of the excruciating experiences with injections.

But there’s good news for typanophobic people, or those who have irrational fear of injections – patches with painless microneedles could just replace the conventional needle treatment.

While this innovation is not at all new, a new material combination that is flexible and comfortable to wear is hoped to be the most effective microneedle penetration to the skin yet.

Researchers from the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm have developed a microneedle patch that combines stainless steel needles embedded in a soft polymer base, the first time that such combination is believed to have been scientifically studied.

Source: KTH Magazine
Source: KTH Magazine

The soft base material provides the comfort to the wearer, while the steel needles give the secured skin penetration that reaches the upper layer of the skin, deep enough to avoid touching the nerves.

Practically all microneedle arrays being tested today are “monoliths”, according to Frank Niklaus, professor of micro and nanofabrication at KTH. That means that the entire patch is made of hard and stiff material throughout. No question that it does penetrate the skin well, but the base being of that quality is uncomfortable to wear.

He also pointed out that if the whole array is made from softer materials to fit more comfortably, the downside is its penetration on the skin.

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“To the best of our knowledge, flexible and stretchable patches with arrays of sharp and stiff microneedles have not been demonstrated to date,” he adds.

Tests were delivered with two variations of their microneedle patch. One was stretchable and slightly more flexible than the other. Results of that test indicated that the one showed a promising grip and comfort to the skin.

With a base of molded thiol-ene-epoxy-based thermoset film, the more flexible patch conformed well to deformations of the skin surface. Also, each of the 50 needles penetrated the skin during a 30-minute test.

It does more than just delivering drugs to the body. The wearable microneedle patch also extracts physiological signals for fitness monitoring devices and real-time diagnostic markers, and treats skin for cosmetics and bioelectrics.

Niclas Roxhed, one of the researchers of the study from the Department of Micro and Nanotechnology at KTH, reiterates the importance of their uniqe microneedle patch.

“The chronically ill would not have to take daily injections,” he says.

The patch not being able to enter the bloodstream introduces a less risk of spreading infections, Roxhed adds. A report from the World Health Organization revealed that about 1.3 million people die worldwide annually because of improper handling of needles.


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