Microneedles may treat peanut allergies better than anything else
Peanut allergies can be very serious, potentially resulting in life-threatening anaphylaxis. There could be new hope for eliminating such allergies, however, thanks to the use of peanut-packin' microneedles.
Presently, one of the most common methods of treating peanut allergies involves having patients build up a resistance to the allergens, by orally ingesting increasingly large doses of encapsulated peanut protein. While this method has proven to be somewhat effective, patients have to strictly maintain their dosage schedule over a long period of time, plus there is a risk of allergic reactions.
Another approach, known as epicutaneous immunotherapy (EPIT), requires patients to wear a skin patch that gradually releases peanut proteins into their system. The effectiveness of this technique varies from person to person, which may be due to how readily their skin allows the proteins to pass through into the bloodstream.
Seeking a faster-acting, more reliable alternative, scientists from the University of Michigan and Moonlight Therapeutics recently looked to microneedle patch technology.
In a nutshell (no pun intended) such patches incorporate an array of tiny medication-filled needles on their underside, which pierce the outer layer of skin when the patch is pressed onto the patient's body. There's no pain involved, as the needles don't reach the nerves.
As the microneedles proceed to harmlessly dissolve, they release the medication into the interstitial fluid between the skin cells. From there, the medication gradually enters the bloodstream.
For the new study, instead of utilizing a medication, the researchers applied a coating of powdered peanuts to microneedles on skin patches. Each patch was then applied to the skin of a peanut-allergic mouse for five minutes once a week.
After five weeks of that treatment, the animals were found to have developed much more of a peanut tolerance than another group of peanut-allergic mice, which received EPIT treatment. The latter group took two months of therapy to develop a similar level of tolerance, plus they required a dose of peanut protein which was 10 times higher than the amount administered via the microneedles.
"While our pre-clinical results are from studies in animal models, they demonstrate the potential for peanut microneedles to improve food allergen immunotherapy through the skin," said U Michigan's Asst. Prof. Jessica O’Konek, senior author of a paper on the research. "Treatment options for food allergy are limited, so there is a lot of motivation for the development of novel therapeutics. It will be exciting to watch the clinical development of this technology."
The paper was published in the journal Immunotherapy.
Source: University of Michigan