We established near-infrared (NIR)-light-triggered transdermal delivery systems by encapsulating NIR absorbers, silica-coated lanthanum hexaboride (LaB6@SiO2) nanostructures and the cargo molecule to be released in biodegradable polycaprolactone (PCL) microneedles. Acting as a local heat source when exposed to an NIR laser, these nanostructures cause a phase transition of the microneedles, thereby increasing the mobility of the polymer chains and triggering drug release from the microneedles. On IR thermal images, the light-triggered melting behavior of the LaB6@SiO2-loaded microneedles was observed. By adjusting the irradiation time and the laser on/off cycles, the amount of molecules released was controlled accurately. Drug release was switched on and off for at least three cycles, and a consistent dose was delivered in each cycle with high reproducibility. The designed microneedles were remotely triggered by laser irradiation for the controlled release of a chemotherapeutic drug, doxorubicin hydrochloride, in vivo. This system would enable dosages to be adjusted accurately to achieve a desired effect, feature a low off-state drug leakage to minimize basal effects and can increase the flexibility of pharmacotherapy performed to treat various medical conditions.
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