Pain-free, laser-powered needles being developed
The very sheer thought of needles gives some of us goose bumps. But although the idea of needles may be squeamish, flu shots and childhood immunisations are staples of medical care that we all need to go through.
Despite decades of research to try and make the process less painful, hypodermic needles are the preferred method due to their precision and control.
But finally, a scientific breakthrough is seeing scientists develop a laser-based system that shoots microscopic jets of drugs with the right amount of force into the skin without ever touching it, making the process completely pain-free.
The same type of laser, which is already used by dermatologists for facial treatments, was invented by Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Seoul National University, Jack Yoh, together with his graduate students in South Korea.
It contains a small adaptor with the drug to be propelled right inside it, which, with each laser pulse lasting 250 millionths of a second, generates a vapour bubble inside the driving fluid, and the resulting pressure puts a strain on the membrane, forcing the drug to be ejected into the skin in a narrow jet as wide as a human hair.
Tests performed on guinea pigs proved that the drug-laden jet can penetrate several millimetres into the skin with no damage to the tissue at all.
Yoh is currently collaborating with other researchers to produce low-cost injectors for clinical use, to make the technology adaptable to situations where small doses of drugs are injected in multiple places (like mass vaccine injections on children).