MIT Researchers Create Star Trek-Style Needleless Injections

A high-speed pressure jet administers medicine through the skin

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At last, Trekkies and Trypanophobes have something in common. Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have pulled a page from Star Trek‘s book and have developed a technique for giving shots without a needle, much like the injections Dr. McCoy delivered on the starship Enterprise.

MIT scientists, led by Professor Ian Hunter, have figured out a way to inject medicine using a high-pressure jet to deliver specific amounts of medicine to variable depths beneath the skin, reports the Daily Mail. It’s a step up from existing needleless transdermal devices, such as nicotine patches, which are limited to medicinal doses tiny enough to be delivered via the skin’s pores. This means that the new needleless injections can be used on individuals of all ages and with a variety of doses and medications.

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The specifics of the design only make the device sound more like something out of science fiction. The injector is built around a Lorentz-force actuator — a small, powerful magnet surrounded by a coil of wire that’s attached to a piston. When the system is charged, it interacts with the magnetic field to produce a force that pushes the piston forward. This force ejects the drug at a pressure and velocity strong enough to get through skin, but supposedly feels no worse than a mosquito bite.

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Inventors have made similar devices before, but this is the first version that can adjust for different depths and pressures, which means the injector could potentially be used on both babies and adults getting injections. For people living with diseases such as diabetes, that require frequent injections, the new delivery system could be a life changer. Catherine Hogan, a member of the research team at MIT , told the Daily Mail: “If you are afraid of needles and have to frequently self-inject, compliance can be an issue….We think this kind of technology … gets around some of the phobias that people may have about needles.’

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Needle-less injections aren’t the only Star Trek-inspired scientific development recently. The Monash Vision Group’s bionic eye project is crafting a seeing-eye device that looks a lot like the visor that Geordi LaForge wore in Star Trek: The Next Generation. Now that the needleless-injection is a reality, can they start working on transporters? Or maybe Tribbles, assuming we figure out a way to get them spayed?

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