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Taking The "Ouch" Out Of Needles: Arrays Of "Microneedles" Offer New Technique For Drug Delivery

"Microneedles" much thinner than the diameter of a human hair could be the basis for a new drug delivery technique able to administer small quantities of high-potency medications through the skin without causing pain.

Arrays of the microneedles could improve administration of existing medications, allow development of new therapeutic compounds and open the door for microprocessor-based systems for delivering drugs continuously or in response to body needs. Produced with fabrication techniques originally developed for the microelectronics industry, the tiny needles can avoid causing pain because they penetrate only the outermost layer of skin that contains no nerve endings.

Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology believe their microneedles would be especially useful with large protein-based molecules, such as those produced through new biotechnology processes. Such drugs often cannot be taken orally, but must be administered frequently enough to make traditional needle injection impractical or unpleasant.

"We envision microneedles being 'user-friendly' for patients, similar to the current transdermal patches that are in common use," said Dr. Mark R. Prausnitz, assistant professor in Georgia Tech's School of Chemical Engineering. "We expect in its final design that a microneedle array would be quite easy to use. Patients would just peel a liner off and stick it onto the skin. They would not see any needles, and there should be no pain associated with it."

Details on the work will be presented June 22 at the 25th International Symposium on Controlled Release of Bioactive Materials. A paper has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences. In addition to Prausnitz, the research team includes Dr. Mark G. Allen, associate professor in Georgia Tech's School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Graduate Students Sebastien Henry and Devin McAllister.

The first use for the microneedle arrays would b
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Contact: John Toon
john.toon@edi.gatech.edu
404-894-6986
Georgia Institute of Technology Research News
22-Jun-1998


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