Patch a potential option for drug testing

DrugTestPatchImageThe Queen’s University Belfast’s School of Pharmacy in Northern Ireland has developed a new technology that may make drug testing easier, safer and less painful than current blood tests. The university is testing a sticky, plaster-like patch that utilizes tiny, polymer microneedles to test for drugs in the body’s interstitial fluid. Currently, drug tests can be performed by testing the urine, blood, hair, or saliva, though not all methods are equally effective. The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council is funding the research that award-winning researcher Dr. Ryan Donnelly is conducting. Dr. Connelly says the rough patches — which contain a “forest” of tiny needles — are potentially a safer and less painful means of conducting drug tests. “Compared with drawing blood, our patches can get their samples in a minimally invasive way,” said Dr. Donnelly. “And it’s far safer than using a conventional needle. These microneedles, once they have been used, become softened, so that there’s no danger of dirty needles transferring infection to another patient, or one of the healthcare workers.” The patch would be a big step in protecting healthcare providers as well, as millions of health workers are affected each year by needle injuries and infections. The interstitial fluid, which is the fluid between the body’s cells, contains the same compounds that would be found in the blood, if drugs were present in the bloodstream, so screening processes would be just as effective with the patch as in traditional blood tests. The patch technology was originally intended to inject vaccines into the skin, and has also been shown to be able to absorb specific fluids from the skin and tissue. Early tests show that it picks up on drug compounds, and researchers are working to expand the detectable concentration of those substances.]]>

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