Engineers at MIT have developed a patch that uses ultrasound to deliver drugs through the skin. Ultrasound can create temporary openings in skin, allowing drugs to pass through. The skin is typically a difficult area for drug delivery, as it forms a tough barrier. However, the patch, which contains piezoelectric transducers, can push drugs through the skin highly efficiently. The current iteration of the device can deliver drug molecules to the upper few millimeters of skin, suggesting applications in treating relatively superficial conditions, but the MIT researchers believe they can adapt the device to allow drugs to penetrate deeper and reach the bloodstream.
Scientists around the world have trialed various technologies that are intended to allow drugs to penetrate the skin. For instance, there are numerous versions of a microneedle patch that creates small openings, letting a drug penetrate. The advantages of transcutaneous drug delivery are significant, and these are not just restricted to the treatment of superficial conditions.
“The main benefit with skin is that you bypass the whole gastrointestinal tract. With oral delivery, you have to deliver a much larger dose in order to account for the loss that you would have in the gastric system,” said Aastha Shah, a lead developer of the new patch. “This is a much more targeted, focused modality of drug delivery.”
Ultrasound offers a way to penetrate the skin by forming tiny pores through which a drug can pass. However, conventional ultrasound technology is bulky and inconvenient for long-term dosing. To address this, these researchers developed an ultrasound patch that contains miniaturized ultrasound components. These include disc-shaped piezoelectric transducers that sit within small chambers that are filled with drug solution.
When the transducers vibrate they create small bubbles within the solution that burst when they hit the skin. This creates tiny jets of liquid that can penetrate the tough outer layer of skin. “This works open the door to using vibrations to enhance drug delivery,” said Amin Karami, another researcher involved in the study. “There are several parameters that result in generation of different kinds of waveform patterns. Both mechanical and biological aspects of drug delivery can be improved by this new toolset.”
So far, in tests with pig skin, the patch was able to deliver niacinamide at levels that were 26 times greater than that achieved with no patch. It also outperformed a microneedle patch, delivering the same amount of drug in 30 minutes compared with 6 hours for the microneedle patch.
Here’s an MIT video about the technology:
Study in journal Advanced Materials: A Conformable Ultrasound Patch for Cavitation‐Enhanced Transdermal Cosmeceutical Delivery
Flashbacks: Tiny Cylinders for Controlled Drug Release; Enhanced Skin Permeability Makes Transdermal Drug Delivery Easier; Nanoneedle Skin Patch to Inject Drugs Into Cells; Ultrasound for Transdermal Drug Delivery