This study presents near-infrared (NIR) light-responsive polymer-nanostructure composite microneedles used for on-demand transdermal drug delivery. Silica-coated lanthanum hexaboride (LaB6@SiO2) nanostructures were incorporated into polycaprolactone microneedles, serving as an NIR absorber. When the microneedles were irradiated with NIR light, light-to-heat transduction mediated by the LaB6@SiO2 nanostructures caused the microneedle melting at 50 °C. This increased the mobility of the polymer chains, enabling drug release from the matrix. Drug release from the microneedles was evaluated for four laser on/off cycles. In each cycle, the samples were irradiated until the temperature reached 50 °C for 3 min (laser on); the laser was then turned off for 30 min (laser off). The results showed that light-induced phase transition in the polymer triggered drug release from the melted microneedles. A stepwise drug-release behavior was observed after multiple cycles of NIR light exposure. No notable drug leakage was found in the off state. This NIR-light-triggerable device exhibits excellent reproducibility, low off-state leakage, and noninvasive triggerability and, thus, represents an advance in transdermal delivery technology.
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