Oncological Sciences Center

Purdue develops new medication delivery system

September 14, 2010

Today medications can be delivered through a variety of ways. Some people have to swallow pills and others have to suffer the quick pinch of a needle injection.

There are even simpler methods. Medications such as nicotine or birth control can even be delivered through the skin using patches.

Purdue University researchers are expanding this method. They have developed a new pump that will increase the types of drugs that can be administered through the skin.

"The pump is supposed to be a disposable pump for drug delivery application through the skin, which they call transdermal delivery," said Babak Ziaie, a Purdue professor of electrical and computer engineering.

He said the patches that are now available are only limited to delivering drugs made of small molecules that can diffuse through the skin.

Ziaie said researchers are interested in delivering drugs with larger molecules and molecules that cannot transfer through the skin such as those found in insulin.

In order to achieve this, some researchers have developed small microneedle arrays with about 100 tiny needles.

"This wouldn't cause any pain," he said.

In order for these microneedle arrays to work, pumps are needed to push the medication through the needles. However, the pumps that currently exist require a power source such as a battery. "So, it makes the system very complicated and also big" he said.

So Ziaie and his team developed a simple, disposable pump that doesn't require a battery, gear or shaft.

"One of the most important aspects of the device is it doesn't require a battery," said Charilaos Mousoulis, a doctoral student who worked on the pump's development. "It's very practical and it has many applications. We can use (it with) many drugs for the injection..."

Manuel Ochoa, another doctoral student, said the materials and the fabrication of the pump will be easy.

"It can be scaled to different sizes," he said.

The pump that Ziaie and his team created uses a liquid that boils at a temperature similar to a human's body temperature. So with the simple touch of a finger, the heat causes the liquid to rapidly evaporate, which creates enough pressure to force the medications through the microneedles, Ziaie said.

He said the next step is to find a company that can manufacture the device and work with physicians and clinicians to identify which disease to target and which drug to administer.

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