WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. Researchers have created a new type of miniature pump activated by body heat that could be used in drug-delivery patches powered by fermentation.
The micropump contains bakers yeast and sugar in a small chamber. When water is added and the patch is placed on the skin, the body heat and the added water causes the yeast and sugar to ferment, generating a small amount of carbon dioxide gas. The gas pushes against a membrane and has been shown to continually pump for several hours, said Babak Ziaie, a Purdue University professor of electrical and computer engineering and biomedical engineering.
Such miniature pumps could make possible drug-delivery patches that use arrays of "microneedles" to deliver a wider range of medications than now possible with conventional patches. Unlike many other micropumps under development or in commercial use, the new technology requires no batteries, said Ziaie, who is working with doctoral student Manuel Ochoa.
"This just needs yeast, sugar, water and your own body heat," Ziaie said.
The robustness of yeast allows for long shelf life, and the design is ideal for mass production, Ochoa said.
"It would be easy to fabricate because it's just a few layers of polymers sandwiched together and bonded," he said.
Findings were detailed in a research paper published online in August in the journal Lab on a Chip. The paper was written by Ochoa and Ziaie, and the research is based at Purdue's Birck Nanotechnology Center in the university's Discovery Park.
The "the microorganism-powered thermopneumatic pump" is made out of layers of a rubberlike polymer, called polydimethylsiloxane, which is used commercially for diaphragms in pumps. The prototype is 1.5 centimeters long.
Current "transdermal" patches are limited to delivering drugs that, like nicotine, are made of small hydrophobic molecules that can be absorbed through the skin, Ziaie said.
"Many drugs, including those for
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