Image of the Day: Broken Needles
Image of the Day: Broken Needles

Image of the Day: Broken Needles

A long-acting contraceptive patch with microscopic needles releases a drug slowly over time.

Carolyn Wilke
Jan 17, 2019

ABOVE: Microscope image of needles lodged in porcine skin

Engineers have developed a long-acting contraceptive patch in the hopes that women could someday use it at home instead of visiting the doctor for a shot or device implant. It works by sticking a grid of microscopic needles to the skin for a few seconds. The backing can then be ripped away, leaving the needles under the skin. The tiny spikes hold the contraceptive mixed with a biodegradable polymer that releases the drug slowly over time. 

The researchers tested their patch on rats and found that it dispensed an appropriate level of drug for human use for more than a month, they reported on January 14 in Nature Biomedical Engineering. The scientists are now trying to bump up the amount of drug the patch carries to six months’ worth.

W. Li et al., “Rapidly separable microneedle patch for the sustained release of a contraceptive,” Nature Biomedical Engineering, doi:10.1038/s41551-018-0337-4, 2019.

Microscope image of needle array