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Pharmaceutical scientists have discovered how ‘medical tattoos’ placed into the skin with microneedles could provide a new way of monitoring health parameters in real-time.

Microneedles are needles so small (typically with a length less than 0.5mm) that their insertion is painless.

The scientists presented their findings at the 2020 pharmaceutical sciences world congress of the International Pharmaceutical Federation.

The researchers showed that they were able to optimise a fluorescent agent for use in the skin, develop dissolving microneedles, formulate the agent to be compatible for delivery via the microneedles, and measure the rate of lymphatic drainage, which is an indicator of lymphoedema.

For some years, pharmaceutical scientists have been investigating their use for the delivery of medicines and vaccines, but the researchers from the Faculty of Pharmacy at the University of Montreal, Canada, are experimenting with polymeric microneedles delivering an agent which gives a fluorescent signal that could be measured with a portable detector in a point-of-care or home setting.

The researchers, however, stated that further investigation with agents that react with physiological analytes in the skin, such as reactive oxygen species (an indicator of inflammation), is ongoing.


“The skin — the largest organ in the human body — carries a great deal of health-related information, and microneedles could help us to access this,” said researcher Sam Babity, a PhD student at the university’s laboratory of pharmaceutical micro and nanotechnology.

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