Kiwi develops needleless, painless injection

  • 01/06/2012

By Imogen Crispe

A New Zealand professor is helping lead development of a needleless and painless injection.

The device, resembling a Star Trek weapon, administers a high pressure jet of medicine through the skin.

Kiwi-born mechanical engineer Dr Ian Hunter has been developing the machine for six years with a team at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in association with the University of Auckland.

He says the device works similar to how mosquitoes painlessly pierce human skin.

The silent device is computer controlled for accuracy, allowing the right dose to be delivered to the right depth.

Dr Hunter, who has a PhD in biomedical engineering from the University of Auckland, told 3 News he originally wanted to develop a way to deliver drugs using micro-needles - but then took the idea further.

“I thought it would be way better if we could figure out a way of doing it without a need for any needles and so that’s what we started working on,” he says.

He hopes this new way of delivering medicine will rule out current issues with drug delivery.

“I knew that people didn’t like needles and thought it would be wonderful if we could just eliminate needles so people weren’t afraid of being injected.”

He says pain was also a factor he wanted to reduce.

“I wanted to come up with a technology that didn’t cause pain, because even small needles you can still feel them and it’s fairly unpleasant,” Dr Hunter says.

The technology also helps to protect health professionals while administering drugs.

“I became very concerned about the number of health professionals who […] accidentally stick themselves with needles.”

“It’s called ‘needlestick injuries’ and it’s a very significant problem around the world […] a huge number of them die.”

It is also hoped the invention will increase the precision of administered drugs.

“When you use a needle and syringe you have it held in your hand and you’re sort of pushing down the plunger of the syringe… and there’s just limits to how precisely you can do it so I wanted to have a computer controlled device that was way more precise than a human hand.”

The device can deliver very small amounts of drugs, including very thick liquids, removing the need to dilute them to be injected which also reduces pain.

“When you deliver a drug and it’s been diluted you are of course delivering way more volume than you really need to.

“Some of the pain associated with an injection is the fact that when you inject in the drug, until it diffuses… it’s this sort of large bolus pushing the tissue away.”

Dr Hunter says that although needle-free devices are not a new concept, he says this one is different.

“[The others] are noisy, many of them are painful and pretty much all of them don’t allow you to dial in the depth of penetration.”

He says his device would allow the health professional to control how deep into the tissue the drug is delivered.

Although the device has not been tested on humans, tests on sheep, rabbits, mice and rats show no evidence of pain.

“In the case of the sheep they didn’t even seem to be aware they were being injected.”

Human testing is now high on the team’s list of priorities.

Dr Hunter hopes the device won’t be too expensive so it can be used in the developing world.

“We’re working really hard to make it as low cost as we can because we’re really interested in it being used in third world applications.”

But he could not say when the device would be ready to be sold commercially.

3 News

source: newshub archive


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