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Needle-less Injections at the Speed of Sound

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MIT researchers created a high-velocity jet injector capable of delivering medicine without breaking the skin. The electromagnetically powered device injects patients through a miniscule needle at nearly the speed of sound, mimicking the barely noticeable pinch of a mosquito bite.

Current jet injection devices deliver a limited range of doses at the same depth, but MIT’s creation can adjust to varying volumes and skin thickness, according to Catherine Hogan of the school’s Department of Mechanical Engineering.

“If I’m breaching a baby’s skin to deliver vaccine, I won’t need as much pressure as I would need to breach my skin,” Hogan explained. “We can tailor the pressure profile to be able to do that, and that’s the beauty of this device.”

This technology, if it becomes a commercial success, may prevent children from screaming at the doctor’s office, as well as help diabetic patients surmount fears of self-injection.

“If you are afraid of needles and have to frequently self-inject, compliance can be an issue,” said Hogan. “We think this kind of technology… gets around some of the phobias that people may have about needles.”

Non-invasive technology like this continues to make strides in the mobile market, where users increasingly leverage their phones as medical devices.

Modified iPhones can now measure blood sugar non-invasively, thanks to Professor Heather Clark at the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences. Clark’s invention requires an iPhone to read and analyze the florescence levels of a harmless nanoparticle solution beneath patients’ skin, which glows when exposed to glucose.

Researchers at Korea’s Advanced Institute for Science and Technology last fall developed a way to analyze drops of saliva on smartphone screens, making it theoretically possible to diagnose patients who spit on their phones.

And a non-invasive wireless heart monitor created at Switzerland’s Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne can alert doctors immediately about irregular heart rhythms, possibly preventing the need for implants in some cases.

Mobile apps like these may greatly improve healthcare, but they will have to face FDA reviews before going to market. However, regulation is moving much more slowly than the pace of innovation, with the FDA taking over a year to approve Mobisante’s smartphone-based ultrasound, for example.

If Mobisante’s experience is any indication, MIT’s device may face a long wait before finally reaching consumers, endangering its success as stagnation invites irrelevancy.

Still, considering the widespread distaste for needles, needle-less injections will likely enjoy instant popularity no matter when they first hit shelves.

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About the Author:

Paul Khunkhun, serving Southern California since 1998. Paul is the owner of MDIS. He is a Board Certified Ultrasound Sonographer with RDCS and RVT credentialing. He is also pending ICAEL accreditation.

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