New Skin Patch Pits Melanin Against Melanoma

December
2017

A skin patch dotted with microneedles can deliver a dose of melanoma-preventing immunotherapy to the skin. Its secret ingredient? Melanin, the dark pigment found in skin, hair, and eyes. It is incredibly adept at transforming light into heat. By irradiating the skin patch with near-infrared light for short periods of time, researchers found that the melanin’s heat-generating abilities improved the immune response and led to a precipitous decline in tumor growth.

The 9×9-mm patch has been tested only on mice so far, but researchers hope to start trials on larger animals. Using a silicone micromold, Zhen Gu, a biomedical engineer at the Univ. of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and North Carolina State Univ., and his colleagues created the transdermal patch with a 15×15 array of hyaluronic acid-based micro-needles, each a mere 800-µm tall and 300-µm thick at the base, tapering to a 5-µm tip.

These spine-like needles are filled with a mix of tumor lysate made of ruptured, or lysed, cells of the skin cancer melanoma. The tumor lysate naturally contains melanin, a pigment prevalent in melanoma tumors. A full patch contains about 50 µg of melanin.

The researchers also add an adjuvant, or a...

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