Microneedle Patch Delivers Long-Acting Reversible Contraception
© (Courtesy: Christopher Moore, Georgia Tech)
Post written by Tishina Okegbe, FHI 360
Though there are several hormonal contraceptive products on the market, there are few long-acting methods that can be self-administered, namely the vaginal ring and sub-cutaneous depot medroxyprogesterone acetate (where policy permits). In an environment where the principle of self-care is being lauded by the World Health Organization, researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology, University of Michigan and FHI 360, are attempting to expand the number of user-controlled contraceptive methods available.
According to team member Mark Prausnitz, from Georgia Tech’s School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, “to enable women to achieve the convenience and reliability of a long-acting contraceptive that can be self-administered, we have developed a microneedle patch that can be painlessly administered to the skin and deposit microneedles below the skin surface to slowly release contraceptive hormone.” The contraceptive hormone, levonorgestrel, is housed within microneedles that are made of a biodegradable polymer. Patch application to the skin initiates an effervescent chemical reaction which weakens the interface between the patch backing and the microneedle, allowing the microneedles to be deposited to the skin. The hope is that a user would be able to simply press the patch to their skin for about a minute during the effervescence process – which releases the microneedles just below the skin’s surface – remove the patch and discard. The microneedles slowly biodegrade and release levonorgestrel for approximately one month.
Though the microneedle patch shows promise in tests on rats, some challenges were encountered and overcome during the development process, primarily how to create a slow-release system using biodegradable microneedles, as it had never been done before. The next step for the researchers is to make larger patches that contain more contraceptive hormone so that they can be tested on human subjects within the next two to three years.
You can read more about these exciting research developments in the recent Science Advances article published by the team.