The impact of many biopharmaceuticals, including protein- and gene-based therapies, has been limited by the need for better methods of delivery into cells within tissues. Here, intracellular delivery of molecules and transfection with plasmid DNA by electroporation is presented using a novel microneedle electrode array designed for the targeted treatment of skin and other tissue surfaces. The microneedle array is molded out of polylactic acid. Electrodes and circuitry required for electroporation are applied to the microneedle array surface by a new metal-transfer micromolding method. The microneedle array maintains mechanical integrity after insertion into pig cadaver skin and is able to electroporate human prostate cancer cells in vitro. Quantitative measurements show that increasing electroporation pulse voltage increases uptake efficiency of calcein and bovine serum albumin, whereas increasing pulse length has lesser effects over the range studied. Uptake of molecules by up to 50% of cells and transfection of 12% of cells with a gene for green fluorescent protein is demonstrated at high cell viability. It is concluded that the microneedle electrode array is able to electroporate cells, resulting in intracellular uptake of molecules, and has potential applications to improve intracellular delivery of proteins, DNA, and other biopharmaceuticals.
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