Pain Free Drug Delivery Using Ultrasound

How the technology works
Engineers working for MIT developed a new way which increases the permeability of the skin allowing for new, novel ways of injecting drugs without the use of a needle.
Researchers at MIT working with Ultrasound (sound waves with frequencies higher than the upper limit of human hearing) have announced an important discovery regarding skin permeability. It was known for some time that Ultrasound can help increase the permeability of the skin by wearing away the top layer of the skin (this process is pain free and the skin heals itself).
During their work with Ultrasound the researchers discovered that by using two different beams of ultrasound waves — one with a low frequency and one with a high frequency, they can boost the permeability across a region of skin more rapidly than and uniformly than with a single beam of ultrasound waves.
According to Carl Schoellhammer, MIT graduate student in chemical engineering and one of the lead authors of a recent paper on the new system: ” This could be used for topical drugs such as steroids — cortisol, for example — systemic drugs and proteins such as insulin, as well as antigens for vaccination, among many other things”. The new technology should allow an increase in the amount of drug that can be delivered through the skin and at the same time expand the range of drugs that can be delivered in this way.
The new technology has a wide range of medical applications including pain free vaccines (requiring very little training to administer – especially important for developing countries), insulin for diabetic patients, deliver drugs for skin conditions such as acne or psoriasis and even enhance the effectives of transdermal patches already in use, such as nicotine patches.

An MIT video explaining how the new technique works

The MIT team tested their new dual beam technique and realized increased permeability up to 24 hours, allowing for delivery of insulin or other drugs over an extended period of time. The team tested their new technique using pig skin and found that it improved permeability significantly more than a single-frequency ultrasound. After applying the ultrasound waves to the relevant area, they applied either glucose or insulin to the skin. The results were extremely positive – glucose was absorbed 10 times better, and insulin four times better than the single bean technique. The team is optimistic that with some enhancements and tweaking, an even greater increase could be achieved.

The researchers are currently working on a prototype for a handheld ultrasound device, as well as on ways to boost skin permeability even more. There is still a long way to go before the technology could reach the market – safety tests in animals would first need to be conducted before human tests can begin (although the FDA has previously approved single-frequency ultrasound transdermal systems).
TFOT covered several other painless rug delivery methods including a patch with dissolving microneedles developed by Researchers from Emory University and the Georgia Institute of Technology, a similar technology developed by HP and Crospon as well as a painless injection using jet power developed by a team of researchers from the University of California, Santa Barbara.
More information can be found on the MIT website.

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