Smart microneedle patches for rapid, and painless transdermal insulin delivery
Insulin administration at mealtimes for the control of postprandial glucose is a major part of basal-bolus insulin therapy; however, painful subcutaneous (SC) injections lead to poor patient compliance. The microneedle (MN) patch, which allows painless transdermal drug delivery, is a promising substitute; however, it remains a big challenge to deliver insulin as rapidly as by SC injection. Here a novel MN patch is designed in which the MNs are coated with insulin/poly-L-glutamic acid (PGA) layer-by-layer (LBL) films at pH 3.0. This coating is pH-sensitive because the net charge of insulin turns from positive to negative when the pH increases from 3.0 to 7.4. As a result, when transferred to pH 7.4 media, e.g., when inserted into skin, the coating dissociates instantly and releases insulin rapidly. A brief epidermal application (<1 min) of the coated MNs is enough for complete film dissociation. More importantly, the coated MN patch exhibits a pharmacokinetic and a pharmacodynamic profile comparable to that of insulin administrated by SC injection, suggesting the coated MN patch can deliver insulin as rapidly as the SC injection. In addition, the patch exhibits excellent biocompatibility and storage stability. The new MN patch is expected to become a painless, convenient method for the control of postprandial glucose.