Engineering Minute

Engineering Minute – Contraceptive Earring Patch

A team of researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology recently authored a report in the Journal of Controlled Release detailing a novel technique for contraceptive hormonal administration. The new technique involves contraceptive hormonal patches worn on the backs of common jewelry such as earrings, watches, and rings. The goal of this technique is to increase user compliance and offer an additional option for family planning.

 

A contraceptive earring patch is shown as it would be worn on a woman’s ear. The white contraceptive patch can be seen attached to the earring back and adhered to the back of the ear.
A contraceptive earring patch is shown as it would be worn on a woman’s ear. The white contraceptive patch can be seen attached to the earring back and adhered to the back of the ear.
Credit: Georgia Institute of Technology

“There is a lot of experience with making and using conventional transdermal patches,” says Mark Prausnitz, Regents Professor and the J. Erskine Love Jr. chair in the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology. “We are taking this established technology, making the patch smaller and using jewelry to help apply it. We think that earring patches can expand the scope of transdermal patches to provide additional impact.” 

 

From the Georgia Institute of Technology article: "Postdoctoral Fellow Mohammad Mofidfar, Senior Research Scientist Laura O’Farrell and Prausnitz tested the concept on animal models, first on ears from pigs. Test patches mounted on earring backs and containing the hormone levonorgestrel were also applied to the skin of hairless rats. To simulate removal of the earrings during sleep, the researchers applied the patches for 16 hours, then removed them for eight hours. Testing suggested that even though levels dropped while the earrings were removed, the patch could produce necessary amounts of the hormone in the bloodstream.

The earring patch tested by the researchers consisted of three layers. One layer is impermeable and includes an adhesive to hold it onto an earring back, the underside of a wristwatch or the inside surface of a necklace or ring. A middle layer of the patch contains the contraceptive drug in solid form. The outer layer is a skin adhesive to help stick to skin so the hormone can be transferred. Once in the skin, the drug can move into the bloodstream and circulate through the body.

If the technique ultimately is used for contraception in humans, the earring back would need to be changed periodically, likely on a weekly basis."

 

Read more about the contraceptive earring patch at Georgia Institute of Technology