A new "smart patch" may improve the delivery of anti-coagulants, according to its developers.
The patch is able to monitor thrombin levels in the blood and calculate when to release heparin into the blood.
Researchers in North Carolina, USA, have announced their work in the journal Advanced Materials.
The patch has microneedles made of a polymer that includes hyaluronic acid and heparin. The polymer reacts to thrombin - leading to thrombin enzymes breaking the amino acid chains binding heparin to the acid and releasing it into the blood stream.
So far the device has been tested on laboratory mice injected with thrombin. At the time of injection, the patch proved as effective as heparin.
In a second experiment on the animals, some received patches while others had to wait six hours for a heparin injection, the researchers report. Those with patches survived while 80% of those that had to wait for a heparin injection died.
Researcher Zhen Gu, of North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, said: "We're excited about the possibility of using a closed-loop, self-regulating smart patch to help treat a condition that affects thousands of people every year, while hopefully also driving down treatment costs.
"This paper represents a good first step, and we're now looking for funding to perform additional pre-clinical testing."
Reference: Thrombin-Responsive Transcutaneous Patch for Auto-Anticoagulant Regulation Advanced Materials 25 November 2016; doi: 10.1002/adma.201604043
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