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MIT jet-injector provides a needle-free alternative to medicine delivery

By

May 24, 2012

The core of the jet-injection device, which uses a Lorentz-force actuator to deliver a rna...

The core of the jet-injection device, which uses a Lorentz-force actuator to deliver a rnage of doses at various depths (Image: MIT BioInstrumentation Lab)

Those of us with an aversion to needles can soon go to the doctor with a little less trepidation. That is if a new device developed by a team of MIT researchers becomes available at your local medical facility. The device uses a Lorentz-force actuator to create an adjustable high-pressure jet that is ejected out of a nozzle as wide as a mosquito's proboscis, penetrating the skin to deliver highly controlled doses at different depths.

While jet-injectors have been commercially available for decades, they typically rely on compressed air or gas cartridges to power each delivery. The Lorentz-force actuator - a small, powerful magnet surrounded by a coil of wire that's attached to a piston inside the drug ampoule - is powered by an electric current. Able to pressurize a drug up to 100 megapascals in under a millisecond, the device is capable of injecting high pressure doses at almost the speed of sound in air, (about 314 m/s or 1,126 ft/s). By altering the electric current, the velocity of the delivery can even be changed mid-injection.

To modulate the current and velocity of a delivery, the MIT team has generated various pressure profiles for the device. These generally include two distinct phases - a high-pressure phase to breach the skin and reach the desired depth, followed by a lower-pressure stream that allows the medicine to be absorbed by the surrounding tissue. The pressures can also be modified to suit different skin types.

“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,” says Catherine Hogan, a research scientist in MIT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering. “We can tailor the pressure profile to be able to do that, and that’s the beauty of this device."

Another of the many advantages this method of drug delivery offers over the old hypodermic syringe is that it can reduce the potential risk of accidental needle-stick injuries. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that about 385,000 accidental needle-stick incidents occur each year among hospital-based health care workers in the U.S.

People with an aversion to needles will also find it easier to get shots. The creators at MIT point out that this is especially true for people who have to give themselves injections on a regular basis.

"If you are afraid of needles and have to frequently self-inject, compliance can be an issue," says Hogan. "We think this kind of technology … gets around some of the phobias that people may have about needles."

Engineers working on the project are already looking at innovative methods of delivery, beyond injecting medicine into a patient's upper arm. The MIT engineers have tested the ability to deliver drugs right through the eye to the retina, and also through the tympanic membrane (or eardrum) to deliver drugs to the middle and inner ear.

Ian Hunter, the George N. Hatsopoulos Professor of Mechanical Engineering who led the research team, says the device can also take a drug in powdered form and be programmed to vibrate at such a rate as to make the drug behave like a liquid as it is injected into a patient. Unlike vaccines in liquid form that often need to be refrigerated, powdered drugs require no cooling, making them easier to deliver in developing countries.

The new device developed by the MIT team is described in the journal Medical Engineering & Physics.

Here’s Hunter and Hogan describing their new jet-injection technology.

Source: MIT

About the Author
Enid Burns Enid began her freelance writing career reviewing video games after spending several hundred dollars upgrading a DOS-based machine to get Syndicate to run. Since then she's added coverage of mobile phones, consumer electronics and online advertising to her writing portfolio. Essentially, she's fascinated by shiny objects and making them light up.   All articles by Enid Burns
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11 Comments

Yet another Star Trek device becomes reality! WOW!

FrankR
24th May, 2012 @ 07:23 pm PDT

Since we have the "hypo spray" now, at this rate, what are we going to have in the 22nd century? A vaccine teleporter?

Randolph Fabian Directo
24th May, 2012 @ 11:37 pm PDT

Like in Star Trek? Oh, I see another FrankR beat me to it. Awsome though.

Francois Retief
25th May, 2012 @ 03:38 am PDT

I have developped a same electromagnetic needle-free injector 10 years ago for injection of BOTOX.

swissrocketman
25th May, 2012 @ 04:00 am PDT

This is nothing new. The jet injector as a medical device has been around since 1960: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jet_injector

Warhead
25th May, 2012 @ 09:51 am PDT

There have been needless injectors in use for decades. When I went to boot camp in the late 1980's they had air powered injectors in use. They just weren't small.

VoiceofReason
25th May, 2012 @ 10:46 am PDT

Having received injections from both airguns and needles I can say with certainty that I prefer needles.

Slowburn
26th May, 2012 @ 11:58 am PDT

What about problems with injecting drugs outside of veins etc..

Blasting drugs into someones system would also blast in bacteria,etc from the skin.

If it goes in tissue instead of vein what about anaerobic bacteria infections?

Loki
26th May, 2012 @ 06:21 pm PDT

I have seen similar needle-less devices for giving smallpox booster shots which were otherwise given by a scalpel scratching the skin.

pmshah
30th May, 2012 @ 06:32 am PDT

warhead said it, i watched my friend with diabetes use one in the 90s when i was a mere child.

johnweythek
3rd June, 2012 @ 06:50 am PDT

Correct me, I am not an engineer, but isn't this a similar concept to a rail-gun in the sense that coils are used to accelerate something?

Eduardo Cantú
14th October, 2013 @ 10:44 am PDT
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