Washington: Getting an injection could soon be a painless experience, as MIT scientist have devised a new device which they say shoots drugs through the skin at nearly the speed of sound without using needles. The high-speed jet injector device, developed by a team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, uses a small, powerful magnet and electric current to inject medicine at nearly the speed of sound.

Changes in the electric current allow the injector to work in two phases -- a high-speed phase to enter the skin and reach a certain depth, and a lower-pressure phase to deliver the drug in a slow stream that allows for absorption, said Catherine Hogan, a member of the research team at MIT's department of mechanical engineering.

"If you are afraid of needles and have to frequently self-inject, compliance can be an issue," Hogan was quoted as saying by LiveScience.

"We think this kind of technology... gets around some of the phobias that people may have about needles," he added.

The jet injector, which has been detailed in the journal Medical Engineering & Physics, delivers its drugs through an opening as wide as a mosquito's proboscis.

Several "jet injectors" already exist, but they lack the ability to control drug injection speeds like MIT's device.

The jet injector method also has an edge over medical patches that only work with tiny drug molecules capable of passing through the skin's pores, Hogan said.

"If I'm breaching a baby's skin to deliver vaccine, I won't need as much pressure as I would need to breach my skin," Hogan explained. "We can tailor the pressure profile to be able to do that, and that's the beauty of this device."

The next version of the injector could do something even more miraculous than removing the "ouch" factor -- it could use vibrations to turn powder vaccines into a "fluidised" form that enters the skin like a liquid.

That delivery system could potentially save thousands of human lives by enabling wider use of powder vaccines that don't spoil or need refrigeration, Hogan claimed.

The research is published the journal Medical Engineering and Physics.

(Agencies)

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