Microneedles: Big Development, Little Pain

The best technology is the type that makes life easier for people in places where it seemed difficult or impossible to create a more user-friendly interface. If successful, one new development in India is set to aid medical technology tremendously: near-painless needle arrays for syringes.

Researchers at the Indian Institute of Sciences have been working on a new invention, called "microneedles." Instead of a standard stainless-steel jab, these are small arrays of microscopic-sized silicon filaments which are still able to pass medication on to the user, sans any of the traditional pain.

As any screaming child who's gone through an impalement of inoculations can attest to, this could be very important in the healthcare field. Those who require frequent injections, such as diabetics, could have their ordeal made immensely more simple. At a mere 130 microns apiece, the tiny silicon snippets would barely sting, even in an array.

The biocompatibility of silicon was augmented by researchers using a simple and easily mass-produced method. K.B. Vinayakumar, lead author on the project, explained to thehindu.com that, "...we coated the needle with very thin layers of titanium and gold through electroplating.” This is to prevent negative reactions with blood plasma and degradation through repeat use (which is important to maintain the microneedles' strength enough to break the skin's "resistive force.")

The microneedles are currently still being tested on animals, but may soon be seen (though not felt) in use for humans.

If you still cry about needles after this, you're a huge wuss.


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