The love and hate relationship of women with birth control pills is long: if on the one hand they liberated female sexuality, on the other they brought numerous health problems due to the high dosage of synthetic hormones in their composition. Today, their hormonal dosages are much lower and, when indicated by a healthcare professional, present relatively low risks compared to four decades ago.
Even so, taking one pill every other day may also not be the most effective female contraceptive method, especially in regions with less access to public health, such as Nigeria. In addition to male contraceptive gel, researchers have tested the curious "pharmaceutical gems": contraceptive patches. And they do not get tired. They are always looking for new possibilities.
Now the Georgia Institute of Technology team is studying a scientific method with nanotechnology involved in the lab: a temporary patch that injects 100 biodegradable microneedles into the wearer's skin – and continues to work on the female organism for up to 60 days.
How it works?
Pure nanotechnology. According to the article published in Science advances, the idea of the device is that women can apply the patch at home in an efficient long-term contraceptive alternative, potentially without complications, injections or implants.
After manually pressing the patch onto the skin for one minute, the microneedles penetrate painlessly and without leaving large signs of application into their upper layers. From then on, the small needles (which encapsulate the medicine) quickly detach from the adhesive, fixed to the skin, thanks to a chemical reaction. And that's where the contraceptive starts to work.
About half a millimeter long and 0.01 millimeter wide at the tip, each needle has a small dose of levonorgestrel, a successfully implanted hormone (IUD) and oral contraceptive pills. It is released slowly as the microneedle degrades. The sticker itself is half a square inch.
Long-term contraceptives should typically be professionally administered, but the new model can be self-administered even at home, says Mark Prausnitz, a study lead at the Georgia Institute of Technology. More practical, the small adhesive can be glued once, acting for a certain time.
For now, the Georgia team has tested the patch on rodents and, in the initial results, found that over 90% of the microneedles detached after 50 seconds on average, time needed to stick to the epithelial tissue of the animal and start its action on the organism. .
To see how well the patch would work on humans, the team tested on 10 women using a placebo, which did not contain levonorgestrel. The microneedles detached to enter the human body as well as the rats.
The next step for researchers will be testing a version of the hormonal contraceptive patch on women. It is important to know if the results of work perceived in rats will translate similarly in humans.
As part of the studies, discussion groups were developed with women from the United States, India and Nigeria on the use of the possible drug. According to the data collected, most of them opted for the biodegradable microneedle patch instead of a monthly hormone injection or daily pill use.