New Zealand researchers develop needle-free jet injections
A jet-injection device that can administer drugs with less pain and more accuracy than syringes and hypodermic needles has been developed by researchers at the Auckland Bioengineering Institute (ABI) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US.
The needle-free device delivers a tiny, high-pressure jet of medicine through the skin without the use of a hypodermic needle. It’s capable of delivering doses of medication in different quantities to various depths and can inject medication through the skin nearly as quickly as the speed of sound.
The jet-injection research was published in the journal Medical Engineering and Physics and Dr Andrew Taberner, a Senior Research Fellow at the Auckland Bioengineering Institute and Senior Lecturer in the Department of Engineering Science, is leading the New Zealand research at ABI’s bioinstrumentation Laboratory. The MIT team is led by New Zealander Ian Hunter, the George N. Hatsopoulos Professor of Mechanical Engineering.
Dr Taberner says the device, which is being tested in the lab, can be programmed to deliver a range of doses to various depths and is an improvement over similar jet-injection systems currently commercially available.
"Jet injectors are not new but this is the first time that anyone has used a highly controllable linear motor to precisely jet-inject, which allows the user to control drug injection speed and makes it possible to rapidly repeat injections," says Dr Taberner.
The jet-injections are less painful than a hypodermic needle because they leave a hole about the quarter of the size of a needle or about the diameter of a human hair. The device, which has been likened to a Star Trek hypospray, uses a magnet and a tiny piston to deliver the jet of medicine through the skin.
"The device could have many benefits including increasing the compliance rates of diabetics who have to regularly inject themselves with medication. If you’re afraid of needles and have to frequently self-inject, compliance can be an issue," he says.
The technology’s benefits also include reducing the potential for needle-stick injuries and providing an alternative for those with needle phobias, he says.
Dr Taberner says since the device can automatically reload and deliver many injections over a short amount of time, it could have advantages in third-world countries where mass vaccinations are carried out. The device could also be used for diagnostic purposes both in humans and animals because it has a "drawback mechanism" that gives it the ability to take liquid samples from patients. It also has potential applications in animal care and in food production, he says.
Dr Taberner established a student exchange programme between the University and MIT which has been running for the past three years. Students on the exchange programme are currently working on the jet-injection research.
"Our students are highly-regarded at MIT which is arguably the top technology University in the world."