A new study has shown that electrical currents could replace the requirement for needles in the administration of local anaesthesia in medical and dental procedures.
Researchers from the University of São Paulo say that the new method of delivering non-invasive anaesthesia could improve patient compliance as well as lower costs and decrease the risk of contamination. Many adults and children fear dental injections, and in some cases this leads to them putting off or even avoiding dental treatment.
Prof. Lopez, co-author of the study and researcher at the University of São Paulo said that the new method could “facilitate access to more effective and safe dental treatments for thousands of people around the world.”
In the study, published in Colloids and Surfaces B: Biointerfaces, researchers added prilocaine hydrochloride (PCL) and lidocaine hydrochloride (LCL), which are commonly used anaesthetics in dentistry, to mucoadhesive hydrogels. The gels were applied to the buccal mucosa from a pig, and a small electric current was passed through the gels in an attempt to increase the penetration of the drugs through the mucosa. The aim was to achieve deep, local anaesthesia, which is not currently achievable with existing topical anaesthetics.
Results showed that the electric current increased the rate at which PCL passed through the mucosa and a long-lasting high concentration of PCL and LCL in the mucosa was achieved.
The researchers therefore concluded that this could be a viable method of administering needle-free anaesthesia during dental procedures. They now aim to develop an iontophoretic device to deliver these electric currents in the mouth and test this in pre-clinical trials.
However, the applications of their work are not limited to dentistry and the technology could be used in areas such as cancer treatment. Co-author Prof. Lopez said: “Over the last few years, our research group has been working on the development of novel drug delivery systems for the treatment of several skin and eye diseases.
“The skin and eyes pose challenges for drug delivery, so we have focused on improving drug delivery in these organs using nanotechnology, iontophoresis and sonophoresis, which is permeation using sound waves.”