A novel microneedle array with ultrasound-triggered antibacterial nanoparticles is a breakthrough treatment for skin infections.

A new microneedle patch has been developed by a research team at the University of Hong Kong (HKUMed) under the direction of Professor Kelvin Yeung from the Division of Orthopaedics and Traumatology, School of Clinical Medicine, LKS Faculty of Medicine, to provide a highly effective non-antibiotic approach for the treatment of skin infection. In short, the design made with zinc-based MOF antibacterial nanoparticles that react to ultrasound offers painless delivery of treatment for bacterial infection on skin tissue while also promoting skin healing. The unique microneedle has a diameter of about 50 microns, about the same size as a human hair. Science Advances has reported the findings.

Over 80% of teenagers and young people in the world experience acne, a common skin condition.1 The main factor is an overabundance of lipid production that clogs hair follicles and creates a microenvironment in which skin tissue lacks oxygen. This unpleasant situation specifically encourages Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes) bacterial growth. P. acnes bacteria, which impacts millions of people globally, is the primary cause of infected pimple, which is considered one of skin illnesses. In addition to causing the patients tremendous physical and emotional suffering, it has the potential to become a chronic inflammatory disorder if left untreated. Clinical therapy often entails the application of antibiotics topically or orally as well as the use of over-the-counter drugs like salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide. However, these therapies could fail or have side effects.

In general, antibiotics either topically or orally are the primary line of treatment for infected pimples. However, there are concerns about the therapeutic results of topical antibiotic therapy, particularly when the drugs penetrate the skin tissue. Additionally, when bacteria develop antibiotic resistance or when they spread to subcutaneous tissue, the effectiveness of the treatment is reduced. Extracellular polysaccharides, in particular, are secreted by P. acnes bacterium to create biofilm, which deters attacks from immunological or antibacterial agents.

Even the majority of acne treatment microneedle treatments on the market mostly use prescription substances. However, using antibiotics frequently may make germs less sensitive to them. Long-term acne sufferers are aware that using the same products over and over again can significantly reduce their efficacy.

A novel microneedle patch developed by the HKUMed team allows for the transdermal administration of ultrasound-responsive antibacterial nanoparticles, which can be used to treat P. acnes infection with the least amount of invasiveness. The microneedle patch in the current design responds to bacterial infection fast and effectively thanks to the introduction of ultrasound-responsive antibacterial nanoparticles. Drugs are not utilized in the treatment of acne. Under ultrasound stimulation, the modified ZnTCPP and ZnO nanoparticles can generate significant quantities of reactive oxygen species (ROS), which can successfully oxidize the important bacterial cellular macromolecules.

The findings show that after 15 minutes of ultrasonic stimulation, ROS-mediated death of P. acnes bacteria can reach 99.73%. Additionally, there is a notable decrease in the levels of inflammatory markers like matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs), interleukins (ILs), and tumour necrosis factor-a (TNF-a). Additionally, the zinc ions produced can stimulate genes involved in DNA replication, increasing the number of fibroblasts and improving skin restoration.

The new microneedle patch that allows ROS generation upon ultrasound stimulation, considered as a non-antibiotic and transdermal strategy, can not just effectively address the infection caused by P. acnes bacteria, but also facilitates skin repair due to zinc ion release, according to Professor Kelvin Yeung Wai-kwok. We believe that this design is also able to handle various skin illnesses brought on by fungi, parasites, or viruses, such as tinea pedis (commonly known as “Athlete’s Foot” or “Hong Kong Foot” in colloquial usage).

Professor Kelvin Yeung Wai-kwok, of the Department of Orthopaedics and Traumatology at the School of Clinical Medicine at HKUMed, served as the study’s principal investigator. First author Xiang Yiming is a PhD student advised by Professor Yeung. Orthopaedic biomaterials, musculoskeletal tissue regeneration, and anti-bacterial infection are some of the topics that Professor Yeung’s group of researchers are interested in.

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