Injections kinda suck for regular adults, but for babies -- who need a lot of them! -- they can be downright dangerous. But by using many more, much smaller needles, life could be made better for fragile babies and scaredy-cat adults alike.
A research team from Queens University Belfast have developed a tiny patch that uses microneedles to take samples from the interstitial fluid in the top layer of your skin. That contains all the same information that doctors need from regular blood draws, but without the bruising and scarring that babies can get from hypodermic needles -- which, thanks to the vaccinations and blood draws needed from newborns, can be a real problem. The needles are contained on a microscopic patch, smaller than a nickel, and far sharper than your average needle. That means no bruising or side effects from the patch.
Microneedles could also be used for drug delivery. The team has reportedly used the same microneedle patches to administer a wide variety of drugs, and immunologists are already excited about their potential for delivering vaccines painlessly and easily. There's no word yet on cost or timeframe -- as you'd expect, the patches need to undergo rounds of clinical testing before they will be seen in the real world. But if they deliver even half of their promise, it could be a major leap forward for medical science. And, most importantly, no more painful trips to the doctor. [BBC]
Image credit: BBC