Potential of microneedle-assisted micro-particle delivery by gene guns: a review

Drug Deliv. 2014 Dec;21(8):571-87. doi: 10.3109/10717544.2013.864345. Epub 2013 Dec 9.


Context: Gene guns have been used to deliver deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) loaded micro-particle and breach the muscle tissue to target cells of interest to achieve gene transfection.

Objective: This article aims to discuss the potential of microneedle (MN) assisted micro-particle delivery from gene guns, with a view to reducing tissue damage.

Methods: Using a range of sources, the main gene guns for micro-particle delivery are reviewed along with the primary features of their technology, e.g. their design configurations, the material selection of the micro-particle, the driving gas type and pressure. Depending on the gene gun system, the achieved penetration depths in the skin are discussed as a function of the gas pressure, the type of the gene gun system and particle size, velocity and density. The concept of MN-assisted micro-particles delivery which consists of three stages (namely, acceleration, separation and decoration stage) is discussed. In this method, solid MNs are inserted into the skin to penetrate the epidermis/dermis layer and create holes for particle injection. Several designs of MN array are discussed and the insertion mechanism is explored, as it determines the feasibility of the MN-based system for particle transfer.

Results: This review suggests that one of the problems of gene guns is that they need high operating pressures, which may result in direct or indirect tissue/cells damage. MNs seem to be a promising method which if combined with the gene guns may reduce the operating pressures for these devices and reduce tissue/cell damages.

Conclusions: There is sufficient potential for MN-assisted particle delivery systems.

Keywords: Gene gun; micro-particle; microneedle; penetration depth; skin.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Drug Delivery Systems
  • Gene Transfer Techniques / instrumentation*
  • Humans
  • Microtechnology
  • Nanoparticles / administration & dosage
  • Needles
  • Skin