Researchers at Queens University Belfast have been working for the last few years on a new microneedle patch that may help us say goodbye to the fear of needles, needle stick injuries, and having to convince children that it’s all for their own good.
The microneedles are manufactured from a biocompatible polymer and when pressed against the skin are able to absorb interstitial fluid and swell up in response. This allows a drug chamber on the opposite end of the needles to empty its contents through the needles and deliver the medication in a controlled manner into the skin. Once the patch is removed, the swollen microneedles never go back to their sharp shape and cannot be administered to another person. Not having a pre-loaded drug within the patch allows for easy sampling of interstitial fluid that holds a lot of clues to the person’s current state of health.
The patches never penetrate the skin completely and only come close to the nerves that cause pain associated with needle sticks. Reportedly, applying and removing a patch feels similar to using Velcro and is not painful. The researchers still have a ways to go until these patches see the light of a clinic’s day, but we’re very hopeful that in the not too distant future conventional needles will be finding fewer and fewer practical uses.
Here’s a video from the researchers at Queens University Belfast explaining the technology:
(hat tip: Gizmodo)