As the American comedian, Alan Sherman, observed in one of his songs -
"You gotta have skin,
All you really need is skin
Skin's the thing that if you've got it outside
It helps keep your insides in"....
But it's by no means an impenetrable barrier. Injections are the most common means of delivering drugs or taking samples from the body -- pushing a needle through the skin. It's invasive and painful and the majority of patients would rather avoid it.
Now researchers at the University of Bath are working on a variety of means of delivering drugs through the skin without having to puncture large holes in it.
Approaches such as the process of iontophoresis, pioneered by the University's Professor Guy, where a small electric current applied to the skin, through a device worn by the patient, can help therapeutic drugs cross the skin into the body.
Reverse iontophoresis also allows samples to be taken from the body and has been put to use in the Glucowatch which is helping diabetics in the US keep track of their glucose levels throughout the day without the need for routine 'finger stick' samples to be taken.
At the nearby University of Bristol, new approaches to delivering drugs are of particular interest to scientists researching the development of a "vaccine" to treat Type 1 Diabetes -- where a non-invasive system of delivery may be the key to their success.
It seems that, when it comes to the future of Drug Delivery, the skin's the thing!