WASHINGTON, Sept. 13From annual flu shots to childhood immunizations, needle injections are among the least popular staples of medical care. Though various techniques have been developed in hopes of taking the "ouch" out of injections, hypodermic needles are still the first choice for ease-of-use, precision, and control.
A new laser-based system, however, that blasts microscopic jets of drugs into the skin could soon make getting a shot as painless as being hit with a puff of air.
The system uses an erbium-doped yttrium aluminum garnet, or Er:YAG, laser to propel a tiny, precise stream of medicine with just the right amount of force. This type of laser is commonly used by dermatologists, "particularly for facial esthetic treatments," says Jack Yoh, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Seoul National University in South Korea, who developed the device along with his graduate students. Yoh and his team describe the injector in a paper published today in the Optical Society's (OSA) journal Optics Letters.
The laser is combined with a small adaptor that contains the drug to be delivered, in liquid form, plus a chamber containing water that acts as a "driving" fluid. A flexible membrane separates these two liquids. Each laser pulse, which lasts just 250 millionths of a second, generates a vapor bubble inside the driving fluid. The pressure of that bubble puts elastic strain on the membrane, causing the drug to be forcefully ejected from a miniature nozzle in a narrow jet a mere 150 millionths of a meter (micrometers) in diameter, just a little larger than the width of a human hair.
"The impacting jet pressure is higher than the skin tensile strength and thus causes the jet to smoothly penetrate into the targeted depth underneath the skin, without any splashback of the drug," Yoh says. Tests on guinea pig skin show that the drug-laden jet can penetrate up to several millimeters beneath the skin surface, wit
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Optical Society of America