Hate needles? These microscopic ones painlessly dissolve drugs in your skin

dissolving needles university texas screen shot 2018 03 19 at 21 49 05
University of Texas at Dallas
University of Texas at Dallas

Outside of tattoo conventions, few people would honestly say that they enjoy getting stuck with needles. As a result, researchers have been hard at work to develop alternatives — ranging from combining all our shots into one long-lasting injection to a needle-free device which blasts drugs into the body at Mach 0.7New research coming out of the University of Texas at Dallas adds another pain-saving option to the list: A 3D-printed dissolving microneedle array, which could offer a far less daunting alternative for the needle-phobic among us.

“Microneedles are very tiny needles that can deliver drugs and vaccines into the body through the skin,” Jeremiah Gassensmith, assistant professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry, told Digital Trends. “They’re very small, so they don’t hurt, which makes them desirable as a way to replace traditional syringes. We are interested in making them out of materials that get embedded in the skin and dissolve over time releasing drugs or vaccines slowly.”

Usually producing microneedles would require specialized equipment in the form of a cleanroom. The issue is that this is not something that many smaller companies have access to. “We basically found a way to cut out the multimillion-dollar clean room with a $1,000 Lulzbot,” Gassensmith explained. “We print microneedles, do some post-print processing on them to make them super-sharp, and then we show we can load small molecules into them and release them into the skin over time.”

So far, the microneedles have been tested on pig skin, where they were shown to be capable of delivering a sample dose of dye molecules beneath the skin, similar to how a drug might be delivered in the body. By applying a slight sideways force, more than 80 percent of the needles break off in the skin. They then deliver their drug payload over time as the needles dissolve — due to being made of the non-toxic polymer polylactide, the same material already used in dissolvable stitches.

“We’d love to get plastic filaments that are loaded with specific drugs that are typically only effective when administered by IV,” Gassensmith said. “Instead of getting multiple shots, your doctor would print out a therapeutic microneedle patch and mail it to you and you could apply it yourself at home. One of the great advantages of microneedles is you don’t need to be trained to use them. They’d be great for deployment where formulating IV drugs would be a hassle, like in delivering vaccines to developing countries. The 3D-printing technology is ready to be commercialized right now, and we are actively working on finding candidate drugs to use for our spools.”

Product Review

The Black Shark gaming phone takes a big bite out of your free time, but the software sinks it

The world is being treated to an ever-increasing number of high-powered gaming phones. With so many great options already out, is there room for another? The Black Shark thinks so. But is it any good? We find out.
Emerging Tech

The best 3D printers of 2018

On the hunt for a new 3D printer? We've got your back. Whether you're a beginner or a seasoned veteran, this list of the best 3D printers has what you're looking for.
Photography

From DSLRs to mirrorless, these are the best cameras you can buy right now

From entry-level models to full-frame flagships, many cameras take great photos and video. The best digital cameras, however, push the industry forward with innovative sensors and improved usability, among other things. Here are our…
Emerging Tech

Makerbot is back with a new 3D printer that’s faster and more precise than ever

MakerBot's new Method 3D printer aims to bridge the gap between home 3D printers and more industrial 3D printing tech. Here are a few of the tantalizing things you can expect from it.
Emerging Tech

We’re going to the Red Planet! All the past, present, and future missions to Mars

SpaceX isn't the only organization pining to visit the Red Planet. Here's a detailed list of all operational and planned missions to Mars, along with explanations of their objectives, spacecraft details, and mission proposals.
Emerging Tech

There’s a giant EMP blaster in New Mexico. Don’t worry, it’s here to protect us

An electromagnetic pulse has the potential to disable virtually all electronics within a large area. To help protect against such a threat is a new, friendly EMP emitter. Here's how it works.
Product Review

This was 3D printed? With the Anycubic Photon, you can't tell

Never mind the fact that the Anycubic Photon 3D printer only costs 500 bucks. In terms of sheer print quality, this printer is on the same level as machines that cost six times as much.
Emerging Tech

There’s a new lab-grown meat startup on the block — and it has a secret weapon

Aleph Farms is developing lab-grown steaks with the same flavor, shape, texture, and structure as the real thing using beef cells isolated from living cows. Coming soon to a store near you?
Smart Home

This A.I.-enabled tech brings cutting-edge automation to grocery stores

Takeoff Technologies is working to make grocery deliveries fast, accurate, and convenient using A.I.-enabled technology to augment robotic grocery orders that can be completed in minutes.
Emerging Tech

Postmates’ to roll out Minion-like autonomous delivery robots in 2019

Postmates is about to employ a cute little robot to work alongside its human delivery personnel. Called Serve, the wheel-based bot can carry items weighing up to 50 pounds and has a range of 30 miles.
Emerging Tech

The best drone photos from around the world

Most of today's drones come equipped with high-end cameras, which are quickly revolutionizing the world of aerial photography as we know it. Here are some of the best drone photos from around the world.
Emerging Tech

Are e-cigarettes safe? Here’s what the most recent science says

Ecigarettes are widely regarded and advertised as a healthier alternative to cigarettes for people who are trying to kick the smoking habit. How safe are these cigarette alternatives? We went deep into the recent scientific literature to…
Emerging Tech

Thrill-seekers will be able to pilot themselves in a giant drone as soon as 2019

Want to hitch a ride on a giant drone? The startup Lift Aircraft is gearing up to let paying customers fly its 18-rotor giant drones over assorted scenic landscapes across the U.S.
Emerging Tech

CRISPR gene therapy regulates hunger, staves off severe obesity in mice

Researchers from UC San Francisco have demonstrated how CRISPR gene editing can be used to prevent severe obesity in mice, without making a single edit to the mouse's genome. Here's how.