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General Health Channel
Reported January 30, 2013

Getting Under Your Skin: New Ways to Deliver Drugs -- Research Summary

BACKGROUND:  For many years, pharmaceuticals have primarily consisted of fast-acting chemical compounds that are dispensed orally (pills or liquids).  During the past couple of decades, there have been formulations that control the period and rate of drug delivery (time-release medication).  They can target individual areas of the body for treatment.  (Source: pubs.acs.org)  Researchers are going beyond the development challenges of improving the effectiveness of the drug itself.  They are engineering ways to deliver drugs more effectively.  Correct dosage to the right location is critical for safety, efficiency standpoints, and convenience.  New approaches have been developed to improve safety, efficiency, and convenience.  They include drug modification by chemical means, drug entrapment in small vesicles that are injected into the bloodstream, and drug entrapment within pumps that are placed in desired bodily compartments (like underneath the skin).  (Source: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)

PHARMACY ON A CHIP:  Researchers at MIT have completed the first trial of a drug-releasing microchip in humans.  The chip is the size of a pacemaker (5 centimeters by 3 centimeters).  In the clinical study it was implanted along the waistline in approximately seven women who had osteoporosis.  It released 19 daily doses of an osteoporosis drug that usually requires injections.  The microchip was proven to safely deliver the medication as effectively as normal injections.  The devices will not be ready for the public until at least four more years.  Researchers believe that the technology will enable people who take injectable drugs for certain conditions, like multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis, to use a microchip instead. (Source: www.web.mit.edu)

LOW FREQUENCY ULTRASOUND:  MIT is researching another innovative way to deliver drugs in a noninvasive way.  Researchers are studying high and low frequency ultrasounds as a way to deliver drugs through the top layer of the skin.  Researchers believe it could be used for topical drugs, systemic drugs, and proteins (like insulin).   Ultrasounds increase the skin permeability by gently wearing down the top layer of the skin.  The researchers found that by applying two separate beams of ultrasound waves, high and low frequencies, can boost permeability more rapidly than using a single beam.  Ultrasound waves create tiny bubbles that move chaotically.  When they reach a certain size, they implode.  Fluid around it gushes into the empty space and generates high-speed “micro-jets” of fluid that create abrasions on the skin.  For this study, the fluid could be water or a liquid containing the drug that needs to be delivered.  The MIT team found that by combining the high and low frequencies, better results will be accomplished.  The high frequency waves generate additional bubbles, which are then popped by the low frequency waves.  Also the high frequency waves limit the bubbles movement, keeping them in a desired treatment area.  This could be used to deliver any type of drug that is currently given by capsules, drugs for skin conditions, or to enhance transdermal patches.  Researchers are hoping it could deliver diabetics their insulin noninvasively. (Source: www.web.mit.eduMORE

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