High frequency acoustic permeabilisation of drugs through tissue for localised mucosal delivery
The majority of infectious diseases enter the body through mucosal membranes that line the ocular, nasal, oral, vaginal and rectal surfaces. As infections can be effectively prevented by instigating a local immune response in the immunocyte-rich regions of the mucosa, an efficacious route of vaccine administration is to directly target their delivery to these surfaces. It is nevertheless challenging to provide sufficient driving force to penetrate both the mucus lining as well as the epithelial barrier of the mucosal surfaces, which are designed to effectively keep foreign entities out, but not excessively such that the therapeutic agent penetrates deeper into the vascularised submucosal regions where they are mostly taken up by the systemic circulation, thus resulting in a far weaker immune response. In this work, we demonstrate the possibility of controllably localising and hence maximising the delivery of both small and large molecule model therapeutic agents in the mucosa of a porcine buccal model using high frequency acoustics. Unlike their low (kHz order) frequency bulk ultrasonic counterpart, these high frequency (>10 MHz) surface waves do not generate cavitation, which leads to large molecular penetration depths beyond the 100 μm order thick mucosal layer, and which has been known to cause considerable cellular/tissue damage and hence scarring. Through system parameters such as the acoustic irradiation frequency, power and exposure duration, we show that it is possible to tune the penetration depth such that over 95% of the delivered drug are localised within the mucosal layer, whilst preserving their structural integrity.