Doctors have been trying to find simpler and more convenient ways of giving patients drugs for years. Now a team of researchers at North Carolina State University has just developed a device that’s about as hassle free as can be: It looks like a plaster, and it releases drugs automatically when the skin flexes and contracts.
The technology itself is pretty clever: Each drug patch consists of an elastomer, with microcapsules across its surface that jut halfway out of the film on the side that touches the patient’s skin. Each of these microcapsules is filled with drug-loaded nanoparticles, which are designed to slowly release their compounds into the capsule. When the elastomer is stretched and then contracted —if you bend a knee, for instance— the microcapsule becomes permeable, and drugs inside are passed into microneedles, which deliver them directly into the skin. The microneedles are small enough to be painless, but large enough to allow drugs to diffuse into the bloodstream.
After being stretched, the microcapsule is recharged as drugs continue to leak out of the nanoparticles.
This sort of technology could do wonders for people who suffer from arthritis or other forms of chronic pain. Imagine, if you had pain relief automatically, the second you started bending a creaky knee or rotating a bad wrist.
Top image via NC State Unviersity