Immunotherapy has been a centre of attention for many medical researches in recent years. It is becoming one of the most promising ways to treat cancer, autoimmune disorders and some other diseases. Now scientists are working on novel drug delivery methods. And it seems like microneedles, like this new University of Helsinki research showed, might be a good option.
Microneedles are, obviously, very small. This means that they offer minimal invasiveness and side effects. Furthermore, they help by piercing the layer of the skin and finding many important immune cells under it. For example, the dermis layer of the skin houses a high accumulation of dendritic cells, macrophages, lymphocytes, and mast cells. Reaching these cells directly with drugs of immunotherapy could offer significant benefits.
First of all, microneedles are way more comfortable for the patient, because they do not generate so much pain, stress or even fear. It is just a small patch, which happens to have many tiny little needles. Furthermore, because of their minimal invasiveness, microneedles limit the number and the severity of side effects. This is also because microneedle patches can be highly localized and work on a very specific part of the body without affecting healthy tissues and organs. So why aren’t we using more microneedles now? Well, as scientists pointed out in this study, there are still some important limitations.
First of all, mechanical properties of microneedles need to be improved. Microneedles must be strong enough to puncture the skin. This presents some manufacturing challenges, which, hopefully, can be overcome later on. Material science needs to improve as well and regulations need to follow too. Hélder A. Santos, one of the authors of the study, said: “We estimate that in the near future, we will observe a high interest in the design and fabrication of biocompatible and dissolvable polymeric microneedles systems for immunotherapeutic applications, among others”.
Microneedles are literally what they sound like – tiny little needles, usually up to one millimeter in length. They barely penetrate the outer layer of the skin and do not puncture blood vessels and pain-sensing neurons. Microneedles are usually arranged in patches and can be applied without professional training. They work in a very localized area and do not cause significant pain or even discomfort.
Of course, doses that microneedles deliver are quite small when compared to conventional needles and syringes. But medicine can be adapted to them and they can be very efficient, comfortable to use and safe. Of course, however, scientists will have to conduct more research in this area.
Source: University of Helsinki