Cutaneous leishmaniasis is a skin disease caused by a parasitic infection, which affects up to one million people each year. There are many shortcomings to current drug treatments for this disease, including hearing loss and kidney damage. The goal of this joint North Carolina State University (NCSU) and Ohio State University (OSU) project is to understand the unique functionality of a microscale biosystem containing microneedle array that (a) emits light from an optical component and subsequently (b) provides local release of a drug with antiparasitic activity. This project seeks to better understand a new type of microscale device technology that both (a) uses focused light to treat the parasitic infection and (b) uses a small pump to deliver an antiparasitic drug directly to the site of infection. Functionality of the novel device that provides both light therapy and drug therapy will be compared with devices that provide either light therapy or drug therapy alone. Goal of the project is to evaluate the feasibility of the multimodal technology to enhance treatment efficiency by comparing with different types of therapies. Graduate students will be trained in fiber optics and microfabrication of functional biosystems technologies and will be mentored in effective methods for teaching large groups. The PI will disseminate results from the project through quarterly Science Saturday lectures and hands-on activities at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. The technical benefit of this project lies in forming the basis for multimodal technology that will have significant impact on new types of precise treatments for cancer and other diseases.
The intellectual merit associated with this project involves developing a better understanding of multimodal technologies, which include two or more types of pharmacologic therapy and/or device-based therapy; this technology is considered an emerging area of engineering research. Objective 1 will involve fabrication of a microscale biosystem containing optical fibers, a pump, and a microneedle array. Objective 2 will involve testing and validation of the microscale biosystem. Objective 1 and 2 will be performed at NCSU. Objective 3 will involve evaluation of the efficacy of the microscale biosystem in which optical functionality and drug delivery functionality are provided together; comparisons of this multimodal approach to drug therapy alone and light therapy alone will be performed at OSU. The feasibility study supported by this project will enable submission of a full proposal on comprehensively understanding the design of the microscale biosystem. It is anticipated that this microscale biosystem can provide a more effective treatment of cutaneous leishmaniasis than conventional drug therapy, which is associated with repeated dosing, long treatment times, and toxicity.
This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.