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Silk Microneedles Deliver

The days of students waiting patiently—and anxiously—in line as the school nurse calls reluctant classmates forward to meet their fate with the foot-long flu shot may come to a close, thanks to silk microneedles being developed by bioengineers at the School of Engineering.

The new silk-based microneedle system is able to deliver precise amounts of drugs over time and without the need for refrigeration, reports TuftsNOW. The tiny needles can be fabricated under normal temperature and pressure and from water, so they can be loaded with sensitive biochemical compounds and maintain their activity prior to use. They are also biodegradable and biocompatible.

While some drugs can be swallowed, others can't survive the gastrointestinal tract. Hypodermic injections can be painful and don't allow a slow release of medication. Only a limited number of small-molecule drugs can be transmitted through transdermal patches. Microneedles—no more than a micron in size and able to penetrate the upper layer of the skin without reaching nerves—are emerging as a painless new drug delivery mechanism. But their development has been limited by constraints ranging from harsh manufacturing requirements that destroy sensitive biochemicals, to the inability to precisely control drug release or deliver sufficient drug volume, to problems with infections due to the small skin punctures.

The process developed by the Tufts bioengineers addresses all of these limitations.

Read the full story here.

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Cindy LuBien
Senior Director of Development
School of Engineering
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Medford, MA 02155