US researchers have developed a new technique to produce a 3D 'micro-printed' array of needles capable of delivering a drug without causing any pain, thereby offering a potential alternative to painful injections.
The needles are made from a biomaterial that would degrade in the patient's body after delivering the drug.
The device could be used in treatments for a wide range of diseases, including skin cancers.
In this study, the researchers reported producing a drug-loaded array for transdermal delivery of a chemotherapeutic drug where the drug is administered through the skin.
The arrays consist of 25 poly (propylene fumarate) microneedles, each needle having a tip and base diametre of 20 micrometre and 200 micrometre, respectively, and a height of one mm.
Constructing the array was challenging, said one of the study authors Jae-Won Choi from University of Akron in Ohio, US.
"3D printing this array was difficult, as the printable biomaterial contains some non-printable solvents and drugs," Choi noted.
Dacarbazine, commonly used to treat skin cancer, was blended into the solution prior to crosslinking (a final part of the 3D printing process).
The needles were then tested and shown to be able to withstand the stresses and strains they would likely be submitted to when inserted into the body.
"We'd like to have a faster drug release, but this will require more material research. Once we improve this process we can look at developing more controlled drug release," Choi noted.
"I would hope we will see this being used clinically in five-10 years" he noted.
The results were published in the journal Biofabrication.