Jet-injected drugs could replace needles

Last updated 12:37 28/05/2012

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This post was originally published on Mashable.

MIT scientists are developing a needle-less injection that could make getting a flu shot as painless as a mosquito bite.

The device shoots a tiny, high-pressure jet of medicine through the skin as fast as the speed of sound.

According to the Centres of Disease Control and Prevention, hospital healthcare workers incur about 385,000 needle-related injuries every year. Meanwhile, fear or discomfort from needles prevents many patients from complying with doctors' orders.

MIT isn't the first institution to experiment with needle-less injections that may help solve these longstanding problems. The concept has been around since the 1860s. The US military developed high-speed models in the 1950s for use in mass-vacination programs. And modern pharmacists have long offered needle-free flu shots.

The prototype injection system that MIT has created, however, allows for more precision in needle-less injections than has previously been possible. According to MIT News, it allows healthcare workers to adjust a range of doses at various depths.

If giving a shot to a baby, for instance, the shot administrator can use less pressure than he or she would to breech the skin of an adult. Flexibility in dosage and depth also makes jet-powered shots viable for a wider range of treatments.

MIT researchers have experimented with using the device to deliver drugs through the eye or ear, and are working on a version that can inject powdered drugs as if they were liquid drugs - something that could be useful in places where proper refrigeration of liquid drugs is impractical.

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