The researchers used a photolithography-based process to fabricate a novel transdermal patch with polymeric microneedles. The tiny needles are encapsulated with painkiller lidocaine.
Kang Lifeng of the Department of Pharmacy at the NUS Faculty of Science, who is the researcher leading the project, told in-Pharmatechnologist.com: “The research team intends to conduct clinical testing of the painkiller patch to further ascertain its effectiveness for clinical applications. They will also be conducting clinical studies to examine the efficacy of delivering collagen for cosmetic and skincare purposes.”
Currently, lidocaine and other painkillers are administered through invasive injections, or through the use of conventional transdermal patches, which may have limited efficiency due to variability of drug absorption among individuals.
NUS researchers believe their patch could be used clinically to administer painkiller non-invasively, or in home care settings for patients suffering from diabetes and cancer. In addition, the novel transdermal delivery system could deliver collagen to inner skin layers for cosmetic and skincare purposes.
The patch is comprised of a reservoir system that can act as channels for drugs to be encapsulated in backing layers, circumventing the premature closure of miniaturised pores created by the microneedles. The size of the patch could also be adjusted to encapsulate different drug dosages, researchers said.
As far as the manufacturing of the patch, Lifeng told us the original patch was manufactured in his lab at NUS. “The research team is keen to work with industry partners to commercialise their work. The team will engage GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) manufacturers to scale up,” Lifeng said.
Laboratory experiments showed that the novel microneedles patch can deliver lidocaine within five minutes of application while a commercial lidocaine patch takes 45 minutes for the drug to penetrate into the skin. The shorter drug delivery time is made possible by the miniature needles on the patch that create micrometre-sized porous channels in the skin to deliver the drug rapidly. As the needle shafts are about 600 micro-meters in length, they do not cause any perceivable pain.
To expand their research on potential applications of the microneedles patch, the NUS team conducted a study to explore its effectiveness in delivering collagen into skin.
The researchers encapsulated collagen in the microneedles and tested the transdermal delivery of collagen using the novel technique. They found that collagen can be delivered up to the dermis layer of the skin, while current skincare products can only deliver to the outermost layer of skin.
And NUS researchers aren’t the only ones developing a microneedle transdermal patch. Back in 2012, Fujifilm developed microneedle array technology with dissolvable needles.