TechMIT researchers pave the way for painless, efficient drug delivery with hydrogel patch

MIT researchers pave the way for painless, efficient drug delivery with hydrogel patch

"Hydrogel 'patch' applying medicine through the skin"
"Hydrogel 'patch' applying medicine through the skin"
Images source: © MIT

12:52 PM EST, January 16, 2024

The researchers from MIT foresee a future where medicine can be delivered through a hydrogel patch instead of a shot. This refined method is entirely painless, non-invasive, and uses ultrasonic waves rather than needles to transmit drugs through the skin.

It should be noted that this method is not new. Preliminary work commenced in 2015; however, the method has now been refined to a level suitable for practical treatment, as opposed to solely laboratory experiments. Initial studies focused mainly on people with diabetes.

The Ultrasonic Pump

The special hydrogel patch, adhered to the skin, facilitates drug transfer. The patch is imbedded with four ultrasound emitters situated above doses of liquid-dissolved medication. Upon power activation, the emitters vibrate to create microscopic air bubbles in the fluid.

These bubbles catalyze the formation of high-pressure microscopic fluid streams capable of locally eroding the epidermis to overcome the skin's barrier. All of this occurs painlessly and without absorption by the user.

Most Efficient Medicine Delivery Method

The researchers compared their method with other drug delivery techniques. In one scenario, a traditional patch with an active ingredient was used, proving effective but transferring the drug 26 times slower than the hydrogel and ultrasound method.

A soluble microneedle-coated patch containing the drug was also tested. This method involves the microneedles painlessly piercing the skin to deliver the drug beneath the surface before dissolving. Although also effective, this second method was found to be 12 times slower, delivering the same dosage of the drug in six hours instead of 30 minutes. The researchers believe their solution could be invaluable for treating people with varying skin diseases or burns.

Related content