As a breakthrough step in medical innovation, a new device has been developed by MIT researchers that can deliver a tiny, high-pressure jet of medicine through the skin, eliminating the need of hypodermic needles.
An improvement over jet-injections that are commercially available, the device can be programmed for delivering a range of doses of various depths, which among other benefits helps in the reduction of potential needle stick injuries that are commonly reported, added the researchers.
The needleless device is being seen as a tool to increase the convenience of patients who otherwise feel ill at ease in regularly injecting themselves with drugs like insulin which require self- injection on a frequent basis.
Catherine Hogan, a research scientist in MIT's Department of Mechanical Engineering also a member of the research team said, "Compliance can be an issue for someone who is afraid of needles and has to self- inject frequently, we think that this new needleless technology gets around some of the phobias that people have concerning needles".
For the past few decades scientists have been researching and trying to create various alternatives to the Hypodermic needles, an example of the available alternatives are nicotine patches which release drugs through the skin slowly. However since these patches are capable of releasing drug molecules which are small enough to pass through the skin pores, it limits the kind of medicines that can be delivered.
Noting that there do exist several het based devices in the market today, Hogan counted that there are a few drawbacks to these commercially available devices, for example the spring based mechanism that is used in the design of these devices which are technically as she calls them "bang or nothing" since their spring loaded design releases a coil which ejects each time to the same depth the same amount of drug.
The MIT team, led by Ian Hunter, the George N. Hatsopoulos Professor of Mechanical Engineering, has now added to the available alternatives, a device which is capable of delivering in a controlled manner varying doses at various depths.
The design of this new innovation is built around a mechanism which employs a small, powerful magnet, called a Lorentz-force actuator, surrounded by a coil of wire attached to the piston inside a drug ampoule. The application of current interacts with the magnetic field that produces a force which pushes the piston forward and ejects forth the drug at a pressure and velocity equitable to that of the speed of sound in air, through the ampoule's nozzle, whose opening is almost as wide as a mosquito's proboscis.
The amount of current applied can control the imparted speed and velocity to the drug as well as the speed of the coil; the MIT team have generated pressure profiles that modulate the current and the resultant waveforms as an observation consist of two distinct high and low pressure phases which control the depth of the drug injected and the spread and absorption of it respectively. The tests arrived at the conclusion that various skin types may require different waveforms to regulate the adequate volumes of drugs and to the desired depth.
As the next step now the team is trying to develop a version of the device that can deliver drugs that are ordinarily found in a powdered form in a transdermal way, which would employ a technique of liquefying the drugs by vibrations so that the "fluidized" form of the drugs can be delivered through the skin in a way much like how liquid drugs can.
The Journal of Medical and Engineering Physics holds reports of the development of this technique by the team.