Crospon, the company that licensed the technology, has expressed interest in using the patch to painlessly deliver insulin. It’s also exploring the possibility of delivering multiple drugs through a single patch, over a long period of time. The array is also scalable, and it can be designed to contain tens or even hundreds of reservoirs, depending on its intended therapeutic use.
Nickel adds that down the line, the patch may be customized to the patient. For example, tiny sensors embedded in a patch could detect when medication is needed and treat an asthma attack in the middle of the night. Or a patch could automatically deliver insulin when it detects that glucose levels are low.
“I even had ideas in terms of military applications,” says Nickel. “You could put sensors on the device to detect chemical or biological weapons, and develop the appropriate antidote for the pathogen dependent on what was detected by the sensors. So there are a myriad of applications for this technology.”
Mitragotri of UCSB says that, with such advances in transdermal drug-delivery systems, the hypodermic needle may one day be no more than a painful memory. “A decade down the road, I envision more drugs to be delivered through patches,” he says. “For the patient, it means that instead of hypodermic needles, they could slap on a patch that could be delivered over a long period of time, in a painless way, and they can control delivery.”