Conditions such as oral lichen planus (OLP) and recurrent aphthous stomatitis (RAS) cause painful lesions inside the mouth, which can be difficult to treat. There could be new hope, however, in the form of what's essentially a drug-delivering bandage that can be adhered directly to those lesions.

Ordinarily, OLP, RAS and other diseases that cause oral lesions are treated with steroid creams, ointments or mouthwashes. The problem with these is that once administered, they quickly become dispersed throughout the whole mouth, limiting their contact time with the target area. As a result, their therapeutic effect isn't all that it could be.

With that in mind, scientists from Britain's University of Sheffield collaborated with colleagues at Danish firm Dermtreat A/S to create the Rivelin patch.

Made from electrospun polymer nano-fibers infused with the steroid clobetasol-17-propionate, the highly-flexible patch has a non-toxic bioadhesive on one side, and an impermeable backing layer on the other. This allows it to remain stuck to the wet inside of the patient's mouth, continuously releasing the steroid directly to an underlying lesion, but not into the rest of the mouth.

In lab tests performed on 26 test subjects, it remained in place for up to two hours – far longer than creams or ointments would last.

"The patch acts like a plaster inside your mouth, which means it is very effective at directly targeting the specific area as well as forming a protective barrier," says Sheffield's Dr. Craig Murdoch, lead author of a paper on the research. "Patients who have trialled the patch found it to be very comfortable to wear and they were really pleased with the length of adhesion which makes it particularly effective and efficient."

The Rivelin patch will soon be heading into clinical trials at several sites in the UK and US. You can access the full paper in the journal Biomaterials.