Ultrasound-enhanced transdermal delivery: recent advances and future challenges

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The skin is a formidable diffusion barrier that restricts passive diffusion to small (<500 Da) lipophilic molecules. Methods used to permeabilize this barrier for the purpose of drug delivery are maturing as an alternative to oral drug delivery and hypodermic injections. Ultrasound can reversibly and non-invasively permeabilize the diffusion barrier posed by the skin. This review discusses the mechanisms of ultrasound-permeability enhancement, and presents technological innovations in equipment miniaturization and recent advances in permeabilization capabilities. Additionally, potentially exciting applications, including protein delivery, vaccination, gene therapy and sensing of blood analytes, are discussed. Finally, the future challenges and opportunities associated with the use of ultrasound are discussed. It is stressed that developing ultrasound for suitable applications is key to ensure commercial success.

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