MIT concocts next-generation, needle-free drug injector

MIT's next-generation, needle-free drug device--courtesy of MIT

Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers have concocted a next-generation medical device that delivers drugs using programmed high-pressure jets rather than needles.

Companies, such as PharmaJet, already make needle-free injectors that deliver both vaccines and liquid drugs. (Interestingly, the company's website points out that needle-free technology has been around in various forms since the 1860s.) But MIT says its device takes the technology further because it can be programmed to give patients a wide range of doses at various depths in the body, something that isn't widely available yet.

The technology here is known as a Lorentz-force actuator, the school explains. Basically, it's a small magnet wrapped in wire that is attached to a piston inside a drug ampoule. Apply the current and it interacts with the magnetic field and that in turn pushes the piston forward and ejects the drug almost at the speed of sound in air through a microscopically tiny nozzle. To control the drug velocity and depth of its delivery, simply adjust the current.

The benefits here are numerous. People who must inject insulin or other drugs at home could gain a needle-free and less painful alternative. The technology could also be used for infants, MIT notes, whose skin is more delicate and so the drug depth could be adjusted accordingly. Adjustments may also benefit patients with different skin types, for whom needle-free injector devices might not deliver drugs or vaccines as effectively as they should.

Read the journal Medical Engineering and Physics for more details on the MIT creation.

- here's the MIT news item
- read the journal abstract

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