Proboscis-mimicking microneedle for drug delivery

By Nick Taylor

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Health care, Hypodermic needle

Researchers from India and Japan claim to have developed a compact medical device capable of painlessly monitoring a patients insulin levels and administering the required dose.

The paper, published in the June edition of the Journal of Applied Physics​, details how by combining a microneedle with lab-on-a-chip technology and a micropump the researchers created an all-in-one tool for diabetics.

Beyond the device explored in the paper the researchers, Suman Chakraborty and Kazuyoshi Tsuchiya, believe that their microneedle would be beneficial in the administration of a wide spectrum of therapeutics.

Commenting on the technology the authors wrote: "Precise control over the fluidic transport and the ability to scale down the analysis to very small volumes of liquid are among the most attractive capabilities of these novel health care approaches​.

"Such concepts provide excellent promises in revolutionising health care protocols for the future, with the possibilities of developing substantially improved and patient-friendly health monitoring systems​."

The needle has been designed to mimic a mosquito's proboscis in dimensions, the manner that suction is created and rate of flow.

As it has an external diameter of only 60µm, as opposed to 900µm for conventional syringes, the microneedle is said to be painless.

Microneedles with similar dimensions have been created previously but have primarily been fabricated from silicon dioxide that rendered them brittle making them liable to snap, which could potentially cause a blood clot.

This latest model in the needle's development is crafted from titanium and related alloys, giving it the strength needed to administer therapeutics without the risk of snapping.

It is capable of penetrating 3mm under the skin to administer therapeutics into the capillaries or extract blood.

The researchers are now seeking to commercialise the technology. Speaking to Chakraborty said: "We are currently in touch with a couple of companies in India (including multi-national ones) for possible upscaling of the product to a commercial level​."

Chakraborty said that at present there are no plans to launch human trials of the device, with working through regulatory issues and preparing for commercial scale production regarded as more pressing matters.

He is confident that the disposable needles can be manufactured on a large scale at an economically viable cost saying: "We believe that the cost will be competitive only if we fabricate these needles in a batch process in large numbers; since the costs of expensive fabrication machines are not going to cumulatively add up and the material consumption for each needle is quite low because of their micro dimensions​."

Related topics: Drug Delivery, Delivery technologies

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