Ultrasound: A drug delivery system

Ultrasound waves as a transdermal drug delivery system by Amina Shakrullah

In another remarkable achievement of MIT engineers, the researchers have boosted the permeability of skin for drugs by using ultrasound waves. By this success the transdermal drug delivery system will become more efficacious. The MIT researchers are sanguineous that the extraordinary achievement can pave the way for needle free vaccinations and noninvasive drug delivery. An MIT graduate in chemical engineering and also among the leading authors of the paper, Carl Schoellhammer said this technology will be helpful for topical drugs as steroids and cortisol. At the same time equally efficient for systemic drugs and proteins such as insulin and antigens for vaccination.

In a transient and pain free affect the ultrasound waves, sound waves having frequencies greater than the upper limit of human hearing; lightly wear away upper skin layer, which in turn will increase the skin permeability. The researchers found if two separate ultrasound beams, one with low frequency and other with high frequency are applied to skin, uniformly boost skin permeability across a skin region. The two beams enhance skin permeability more rapidly as compared to a single ultrasound beam.

Basic principle:

Ultrasound waves generate chaotically moving tiny bubbles while traveling through a fluid. When bubbles reach up to a certain point they become unstable and implode. As a result surrounding fluid will suddenly move towards the empty space. As a result creates high speed “microjets” of fluid that will lead to microscopic abrasions on the skin. So, in the given scenario researchers use fluid to deliver drugs. In recent years the researchers have focused on low frequency ultrasound waves for enhancing transdermal drug delivery system. The reason of using low frequency sound waves is that high frequency waves do not have enough energy to implode the bubble and produce scattered abrasions and random spots in the treated area.

But the MIT engineers found that the combination of high and low energy ultrasound waves give better results. The bubbles generated by high frequency waves are popped up by low frequency waves. According to Samir Mitragorti a chemical engineering professor at the University of California Santa Barbara, to improve the technology it is a very innovative way. It will help to increase the amount of drug delivered through the skin and at the same time will expand the types of drugs that can be delivered through the skin. To evaluate and compare the efficiency of the technology with the previous one’s the researchers use pig skin. The results showed that the permeability was boosted and was much more than the single frequency system.

Noninvasive drug delivery system:

This type of unique drug delivery system can be used to deliver any kind of drug, which is currently administered as capsules. This drug delivery system can be used to treat skin conditions such as acne and psoriasis. It is also helpful to enhance transdermal patches which are already in use such as nicotine patches. The researchers are of the opinion that this system promises a noninvasive for diabetics to control the blood sugar levels by short and long term delivery of insulin. The method can also be used as needle free and pain free vaccination administering system. The developers of the technology are hopeful that the system will pass the safety tests as FDA has already approved single frequency ultrasound transdermal system.


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