Advances and challenges in developing smart, multifunctional microneedles for biomedical applications


Microneedles (MNs) have been developed as minimally invasive tools for diagnostic and therapeutic applications. However, in recent years, there has been an increasing interest in developing smart multifunctional MN devices to provide automated and closed-loop systems for body fluid extraction, biosensing, and drug delivery in a stimuli-responsive manner. Although this technology is still in its infancy and far from being translated into the clinic, preclinical trials have shown some promise for the broad applications of multifunctional MN devices. The main challenge facing the fabrication of smart MN patches is the integration of multiple modules, such as drug carriers, highly sensitive biosensors, and data analyzers in one miniaturized MN device. Researchers have shown the feasibility of creating smart MNs by integrating stimuli-responsive biomaterials and advanced microscale technologies, such as microsensors and microfluidic systems, to precisely control the transportation of biofluids and drugs throughout the system. These multifunctional MN devices can be envisioned in two distinct strategies. The first type includes individual drug delivery and biosensing MN units with a microfluidic system and a digital analyzer responsible for fluid transportation and communication between these two modules. The second type relies on smart biomaterials that can function as drug deliverers and biosensors by releasing drugs in a stimuli-responsive manner. These smart biomaterials can undergo structural changes when exposed to external stimuli, such as pH and ionic changes, mimicking the biological systems. Studies have demonstrated a high potential of hydrogel-based MN devices for a wide variety of biomedical applications, such as drug and cell delivery, as well as interstitial fluid extraction. Biodegradable hydrogels have also been advantageous for fabricating multifunctional MNs due to their high loading capacity and biocompatibility with the drug of choice. Here, we first review a set of MN devices that can be employed either for biosensing or delivery of multiple target molecules and compare them to the conventional and more simple systems, which are mainly designed for single-molecule sensing or delivery. Subsequently, we expand our insight into advanced MN systems with multiple competencies, such as body fluid extraction, biosensing, and drug delivery at the point of care. The improvement of biomaterials knowledge and biofabrication techniques will allow us to efficiently tune the next generation of smart MNs and provide a realistic platform for more effective personalized therapeutics.



subject category

Biotechnology & Applied Microbiology


Tavafoghi, M; Nasrollahi, F; Karamikamkar, S; Mahmoodi, M; Nadine, S; Mano, JF; Darabi, MA; Jahangiry, J; Ahadian, S; Khademhosseini, A

our authors


Fonds de recherche du Quebec - sante (FRQS), Canada; Schlumberger Foundation; Fulbright Commission Portugal; Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology

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