Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have developed a wearable patch that can be applied on the skin, painlessly delivering drugs using ultrasonic waves that create tiny channels for medication to be absorbed into the body.
According to the researchers, the patch could be adapted for the delivery of hormones, muscle relaxers, and other drugs through the skin.
Using ultrasound for transdermal drug delivery
It was already known that ultrasound exposure can enhance the skin’s permeability to small-molecule drugs. However, the development of the wearable patch meant there was no need for any bulky equipment, as is usually required for existing techniques.
The patch consists of disc-shaped piezoelectric transducers, with each disc embedded in a cavity filled with liquid solution of drug molecules. When an electric current is applied, the piezoelectric elements generate pressure waves in the liquid, creating bubbles with microjets that can penetrate through the skin.
When testing with pig skin, researchers found that delivering niacinamide with the ultrasound patch led to the drug penetrating the skin 26 times greater than the amount that would pass through without the waves and vibrations.
What does the wearable patch mean for drug treatments?
This patch system looks like a game-changer for the delivery of treatments, especially when it comes to delivering drugs for patients suffering from skin conditions and premature ageing. The current version of the patch sees drugs penetrating a few millimetres into the skin, making it useful for administering vitamin C or niacinamide, which are both beneficial for treating dark spots and blemishes.
Not only is this method more controllable, but it also offers “less systemic toxicity”, said CananDagdeviren, the senior author of the study and an associate professor in MIT’s Media Lab.
The patch provides an alternative way for doctors to administer medication on patients, capable of targeting a local area, which is not possible with medication that is taken orally or intravenously.
In fact, use of the patch means that drugs bypass the gastrointestinal tract completely, unlike the situation with oral delivery, which requires “a much larger dose in order to account for the loss that you would have in the gastric system”, stated Aastha Shah, MIT research assistant. “This is a much more targeted, focused modality of drug delivery.”
This technique also has the potential to be used to deliver drugs that need to reach the bloodstream like caffeine, lidocaine, or fentanyl. The patch is still being further enhanced, with researchers currently working on optimising it for testing on human volunteers.
In the meantime, doctors and nurses still have to rely on achieving and measuring accurate drug calculations. safeMedicate’smedication assessment for nurses can help medical professionals assess and improve the vital skills necessary for ensuring they are able to calculate drug dosage without error.