In nature, pests and other parasites are locked in their hosts by inserting back hooks into their tissues,media New Atlas reported. Now, scientists have replicated the strategy and copied it into a system that could replace painful subcutaneous needles. The new technology, developed by scientists at Rutgers University in New Jersey, uses a microneedle patch.
These patches are usually made up of small, flat squares of biocompatible materials, with many small drug-filled needles on the bottom surface. When the patch is pressed on the patient’s body, the needles pierce the top layer of the skin painlessly. They are then dissolved harmlessly and their payloads are distributed to the tissue fluid surrounding the skin cells. From there the drug enters the bloodstream.
Unfortunately, however, existing microneedle patches are difficult to stay in the skin for long periods of time. This means that they are not ideal for the continuous release of drugs over time or for ongoing biofluid collection and analysis. And the new microneedle patch will be different.
Although the process is actually called 4D printing, it is 3D printed with photocured polymers. This was done because, after the patch was originally printed, a series of backward hooks began to bend out from the side of each microneedle – the hooks were interlocked with biological tissue.
As a result, when inserted into such an tissue, the bonding strength of the new patch is 18 times that of a regular hookless microneedle patch. Studies have reportedly shown that it can provide more stable drug delivery and better collect biofluids. Once the work is done, the hook will eventually dissolve.
A paper on the study, led by Lee Howon, an associate professor at the university, was recently published in the journal Advanced Functional Materials.