Transdermal Technology This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   For as long as I can recall, doctor appointments have frightened me. Memories of needles and bad-tasting medicine flash in my mind. These childhood memories still haunt me. I only wish a new method of transporting substances into the human body would be invented. An infinite number of applications could be found. Recently research by scientists have shed light on my concern.

The biotech industry realized that the drugs they are developing have limited capabilities. Proteins and DNA swallowed as pills are destroyed and digested before they reach the blood. They need a new way to usher their products conveniently and safely into the body. Scientists are experimenting with a variety of methods to shuttle molecules through the skin. The skin is a complicated organ. The epidermis consists of five layers of cells. It shields the human body from foreign substances. Most molecules are too big to easily slip through the skin. They are stopped by the Stratum Corneum, an epidermal. This thin outer layer of skin is composed of dry, dead skin cells. This barrier blocks all but the smallest and oiliest of molecules from entering the body. Researchers are ardently working on techniques to coax larger molecules through the skin.

In the midst of this investigation, chemical engineer Robert Langer and his colleagues have developed the most powerful transdermal technique so far. Hs experiments with ultrasound can enable molecules to permeate the skin. The pulses emitted by an ultrasound machine can open microscopic pores. The high-pitched sound temporarily disrupts the skin's structure. At 20,000 hertz the sound waves create microscopic bubbles in liquid inside the skin. As they force their way out, holes stay open long enough to let large molecules pass. The pores then reseal and restore the protective barrier. Lab tests on cadaver skin have transported drugs 5,000 times faster than conventional methods. The potential of sound can always move molecules out through the body. This technology has widespread applications.

If this technique is proven to be effective in people, the possibilities are endless. "Electroporation," as it is called, is designed to replace traditional needles and pills. The hypodermic needle will be a thing of the past. Health-care workers would no longer have to worry about accidental needle pricks. Medication that must be injected directly into the bloodstream would be painless. Needle-less could can extract fluids from the skin of patients.

"Electroporation" can dispense drugs using more precise,

convenient and gentler procedures. People will no longer be intimidated by the pain and phobias associated with a doctor's appointment. This innovation would revolutionize the field of medicine. u


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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