Polymeric microneedle-mediated transdermal delivery of melittin for rheumatoid arthritis treatment

Guangsheng Du, Penghui He, Jiaxuan Zhao, Chunting He, Zhihua Zhang, Zhibing Zhang, Xun Sun

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Transdermal drug delivery systems for rheumatoid arthritis (RA) have been receiving increasing attention as they can potentially overcome drawbacks which exist in traditional oral or injection strategies, including low patient compliance and serious gastrointestinal side effects. However, transdermal delivery of RA drugs especially biological drugs suffers from low drug delivery efficiency due to the robust skin barrier. Herein, we fabricated melittin-loaded hyaluronic acid (HA) microneedles and investigated their capacity for inhibiting RA. We showed that melittin-loaded HA microneedles possessed high mechanical strength for successful delivery of melittin into the skin and effectively inhibited RA progression in adjuvant induced both rodent and murine models, as shown by results in histological, paw swelling and arthritis score. Furthermore, after modifying HA with cross-linkable groups, the fabricated microneedles with sustained release properties could further improve the therapeutic potency. Cytokine and T cell analysis in the paws and lymphatic organs indicated that the application of microneedles suppressed the levels of pro-inflammation cytokines including IL-17 and TNF-α, and increased the percentage of regulatory CD4 T cells. Our study revealed that polymeric microneedle-mediated transdermal delivery of melittin could serve as a new therapy with high compliance and good therapeutic efficacy for RA and other autoimmune diseases.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)537-548
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Controlled Release
Early online date6 Jul 2021
Publication statusPublished - 10 Aug 2021


  • Hyaluronic acid
  • Melittin
  • Polymeric microneedles
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Sustained release


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