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Medicine Technology

Vaccine Patch Removes Needle Pain 250

Posted by timothy
from the non-death-by-a-thousand-cuts dept.
wog777 writes "Researchers led by Mark Prausnitz of Georgia Institute of Technology reported their research on microneedles in Sunday's edition of Nature Medicine. A microneedle contains needles so small you don't even feel them. Attached to a patch like a Band-Aid, the little needles barely penetrate the skin before they dissolve and release their vaccine."
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Vaccine Patch Removes Needle Pain

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    A citizen needs some calibration? Don't worry, he wont even feel the needle shot!

    • Paranoid Much (Score:2, Offtopic)

      by WED Fan (911325)
      Ah, someone who listens to Alex Jones and buys his hats in the sandwich wrap aisle.
    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @10:19PM (#32947094) Journal
      It does open a few possibilities for practical jokes, though arguably not as many as the anything you can aerosolize and disperse already does...(for instance, has anybody else ever wondered what would happen if one were to crop-dust a heavily populated area with a suitably light-stabilized LSD solution? Or distributed a genetically engineered virus through the ventilation system of the DEA headquarters that spliced in the necessary DNA sequences to make those exposed capable of synthesizing endogenous THC?)
      • by gregrah (1605707) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @11:51PM (#32947442)

        has anybody else ever wondered what would happen if one were to crop-dust a heavily populated area with a suitably light-stabilized LSD solution? Or distributed a genetically engineered virus through the ventilation system of the DEA headquarters that spliced in the necessary DNA sequences to make those exposed capable of synthesizing endogenous THC?

        You, sir, have just posted your way in a very exclusive database somewhere deep in the basement of the Department of Homeland security.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Nursie (632944)

        I have actually, yes. Not that I have access to LSD, and the virus thing sounds somewhat fanciful, but yes.

        I also wondered what might happen if you spread a whole lot of cannabis seed over a large area and just let it grow. Unfortunately I'm told the results would be pretty useless due to the female plants only really producing when there are no males around to fertilise them.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by lxs (131946)

        "capable of synthesizing endogenous THC?"

        Evolution is way ahead of you: endocannabinoids [wikipedia.org]

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by dangitman (862676)

        for instance, has anybody else ever wondered what would happen if one were to crop-dust a heavily populated area with a suitably light-stabilized LSD solution?

        Things would get very groovy very quickly. George Clinton would be elected President. Your funk of choice would be the P-Funk.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Ogive17 (691899)
        No, but I've thought about beating the shit out of someone who tried to drug me as a prank.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by MBCook (132727)

        for instance, has anybody else ever wondered what would happen if one were to crop-dust a heavily populated area with a suitably light-stabilized LSD solution?

        That has basically happened in France [telegraph.co.uk], thanks to the CIA.

    • by snowgirl (978879)

      BRAIN STAPLES for everyone!

  • by XanC (644172) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @09:44PM (#32946918)

    Can a blood sample be taken this way?

    • by WED Fan (911325)

      Paranoia strikes deep.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Chazerizer (934553)
      No. Blood must be drawn directly from the venous system (or arterial system, depending on the goal). At that depth, there aren't even that many capillaries.
    • by Dunbal (464142) * on Sunday July 18, 2010 @09:54PM (#32946966)

      Your average red blood cell is around 10 micrometers thick. White blood cells are even bigger. This would probably make the "needles" big enough to hurt like hell - so no, it would defeat the purpose. Besides, kids are the only ones who cry when getting a blood sample taken. But they'll cry when they see a stranger coming up to them in a white lab coat anyway, needle or not.

      • by iCEBaLM (34905) <icebalm@NOSPaM.icebalm.com> on Sunday July 18, 2010 @10:05PM (#32947024)

        I can assure you sir, that it is not just kids who cry at the thought of needles piercing their skin. As one with such a phobia I hope this technology makes it into practice ASAP.

        • by Dunbal (464142) * on Sunday July 18, 2010 @10:27PM (#32947126)

          It's never nice to have someone not take your phobia seriously.

          I have absolutely no problem with needles - in fact I have locally anesthetized myself and performed minor surgery on myself (yes I am a doctor) on more than one occasion. But then again I cannot bear the sight of spiders... To each their own!

          The good side is that if you can deliver a virus (or virus fragments) this way, you can deliver pretty much anything else, too. The down side is how much will it cost versus current methods. Hypodermics are very cheap. And of course there will always be practical limits - nothing will ever replace two short large bore catheters, or a central line for that matter, in certain situations...

          • by Yosho (135835) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @10:33PM (#32947166) Homepage

            As somebody else who has a phobia of needles, I'll chip in that I desperately wish this kind of thing could work in reverse. The number one reason why I avoid going to a doctor whenever possible is because I know they're going to want to use a needle to inject or draw something, and I'd rather just cut my hand open with a knife and let them scoop the blood up than have a needle draw blood. Seriously.

            But it would be really cool if I could at least get vaccinations through just applying a patch.

            (and I think some kinds of spiders are pretty cute)

            • by Dunbal (464142) * on Sunday July 18, 2010 @10:44PM (#32947228)

              Well if needles are a problem and you just need routine blood work, you could probably negotiate capillary puncture [google.co.cr] with your doctor, instead of a needle. That's done with a lancet - like a mini knife - that cuts you with a spring mechanism. It happens so fast you really don't feel any pain at all. It's usually used on small children but there's no reason why it won't work on an adult. No needles involved.

              For injections, however, you're out of luck - sorry!

              • by Lotana (842533)

                For injections, however, you're out of luck - sorry!

                Perhaps use one of those air-forced-through-the-skin injection methods (Name escapes me). Hurts just as much if not more than the traditional way, but meets his no-needle requirement.

                • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                  Jet injector [wikipedia.org], aka a hypospray.
                • by vlm (69642) on Monday July 19, 2010 @06:23AM (#32948942)

                  Jet Injector

                  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jet_injector [wikipedia.org]

                  Interestingly enough most people insist that it's based off the star trek hypospray machine, yet its actually the reverse, the hypospray is based off the jet injector.

                  It's been half a century and they're still not popular. Mainly because of cleaning issues, you still have cleaning/sterilization tasks but instead of cheap mass produced hypos you have a complicated machine. But secondarily, yes indeed they do hurt like unholy hell for a couple days. I got several vaccinations from jet injectors at reception station immediately before army basic training in the early 90s. "Tough Army Dudes" will put up with the pain but I can see how children would not tolerate it.

                  Also, from experience, its pretty brutal and a couple drops of "stuff" leaks back out the entrance hole. Admittedly its not a .45 caliber entrance wound here, its like the hole from a lancet. But I wonder what percentage injected leaks back out again.

              • It happens so fast you really don't feel any pain at all.

                Keep telling yourself that; you might fool yourself into believing it. I'm diabetic. Right now, I use those lancets twice a day to test my blood glucose. I also give myself insulin every morning. Guess which one hurts more. One hint: it's not the hypo.

                • by Dunbal (464142) *

                  Keep telling yourself that; you might fool yourself into believing it.

                  The perception of pain is subjective. Your mileage may vary. I've had open heart surgery, among other things, so I've been poked and prodded quite a few times too. Frankly I have no problem injecting myself, gluteus (a bit difficult to do on myself but I have managed), abdomen or deltoid. Try a chest tube because you have a tension pneumothorax due to Dressler's syndrome [wikipedia.org] one day, and drain 3L in 5 minutes. Then you w

                  • Then you will know pain.

                    No thanks, I've already had enough experience with it. Two broken bones and several kidney stones were enough. I've been testing my bg for eight years, finally went on insulin back in May. If you do it just right, you literally don't feel the hypo; if not, there's a little sting. About the only way to handle the lancets and blood test is to learn not to mind the fact that it's going to hurt, every time.

                    • by David_W (35680)

                      About the only way to handle the lancets and blood test is to learn not to mind the fact that it's going to hurt, every time.

                      Get an alternate site meter. Yes, fingertips hurt like hell, but I can barely feel it if I test on my arm.

              • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                Unless the blood work being done specifically precludes it for some reason, a doctor might also be open to prescribing a short-acting anxiolytic for the procedure. One of the faster benzodiazapenes, or the like.

                Not a perfect solution; but they use those against anxiety and panic disorders for a reason...
              • That's strange, for me a lancet (that of a glucose meter) hurted more than a needle pushed into the vein.

            • by AmiMoJo (196126)

              I don't have a phobia but I still hate needles to the point of having dental work done without an anaesthetic. Actually in that case it was my hatred of having a numb mouth for 6 hours as much as my issues with needles.

              How about using something similar to what animals that suck blood use to anaesthetise their victims? Mosquitoes manage to draw blood while you are asleep without waking you.

          • by Mr. Freeman (933986) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @10:59PM (#32947272)
            "in fact I have locally anesthetized myself and performed minor surgery on myself (yes I am a doctor)"

            I've removed splinters as well. Of course, I didn't use an anesthetic because I'm not a doctor.
          • by prionic6 (858109)

            in fact I have locally anesthetized myself and performed minor surgery on myself (yes I am a doctor) on more than one occasion.

            Appendectomy?

      • by smchris (464899)

        I don't cry but I've been known to faint. Does that count? Really sick as a kid with a _lot_ of shots and blood taken over about 6 years. Trust me, the needles they already have for shots designed for the comfort of diabetes are tiny compared to the pig stabbers of decades ago. You could probably fit two or three of them through the bore of a reusable old autoclave needle.

  • Another idea seemingly ripped straight from Star Trek and made into reality. As someone who just recently ordered their custom tailored Star Trek uniform (grey shoulders/coloured neck style), I heartily approve of this trend! Let's have replicators next, please.

    *Disclaimer: Yes, I know that lots of tiny needs are not how hyposprays work, but please. The end result is close enough.

    • by Sasayaki (1096761)

      *needles.

    • Re:Hypospray. (Score:5, Informative)

      by compro01 (777531) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @10:00PM (#32946986)

      We already have hyposprays. They're called jet injectors. They actually predate star trek (they were invented in 1960) and have been used for decades for vaccinations, particularly polio vaccinations in Africa. A diabetic friend of mine also uses one for his insulin.

      • by mirix (1649853)

        They are also incredibly bad-ass, but they still make kids cry [wikimedia.org].

        • Re:Hypospray. (Score:5, Informative)

          by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @10:41PM (#32947204) Journal
          My understanding is that(at least in tropical medicine and military applications) the point isn't really that they are less painful than needles(and, even if they are, having some guy hold a big nasty-looking device up to your arm and make a pneumatic wh-thunk sound isn't calculated to give kiddo sweet dreams) its that they are much faster and more efficient and cheap.

          Because there is no needle(which is either an expensive FRU or a temptation to ill-equipped medical staff in the ass-end of nowhere to wash out and re-use until it is blunt), you can skip all the fancy western hospital one-time-use assemblies that would be impractical in the field; but avoid the cross-contamination that occurs if you share needles. Depending on the design, there might be a simple pneumatic tip that gets replaced each use; but it makes lining up an entire village somewhere and pumping them full of vaccine much more logistically feasible.
          • If the tip is completely free of contaminant and in good repair and the pressure is very carefully regulated, the jet gun is less painful than a needle. If the previous conditions are *not* met, it can be far more painful than a standard injection, as the (relatively) slow moving jet of liquid deforms slightly on impact and then tears through your skin.

            I remember seeing one that had a foot pedal attached for repressurizing the reservoir in the field... I imagine getting shots from *that* was a treat!
        • by vlm (69642)

          They are also incredibly bad-ass, but they still make kids cry.

          Because they hurt like hell for a couple days. After all, you're being shot, admittedly with a small caliber liquid bullet.

          The kid is crying because the kid saw other kids crying the day after their vaccination.

          Its interesting that for me, needles only hurt while they're stabbing you, afterwards its unnoticeable, whereas my experience with jet injectors is that the injection itself hurts less than a playful punch, but a few minutes later the pain from tissue damage starts and it continues for about a day.

          M

      • by Animats (122034)

        As someone who just recently ordered their custom tailored Star Trek uniform...

        Uh oh.

        We already have hyposprays. They're called jet injectors. They actually predate star trek (they were invented in 1960) and have been used for decades for vaccinations...

        The US used to have mass inoculation campaigns using those things. The U.S. Army used them for decades. Worked fine. The latest generation of the technology [dantonioconsultants.com] is small, battery-powered, and uses reusable cartridges. The problem is that either the whol

        • Yeah, I went to boot camp in 1975. We spent uncounted hours in line to get inoculations. A number of them were done with those jet injectors, but many were done with needles. That "A" shot was the killer. It had to go into a buttock, it had to go in deep, and they used a HUGE frigging needle. And, after they injected the stuff, you had to work out, to get the gob of stuff to circulate, or it would just stay right there, and make your lower body stiffen up.

          At least that's the story they told us. I thin

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      It reminds me more of the fast-acting transdermal patches that Babylon 5 was fond of. [youtube.com]

      Oh, and: SPOILER ALERT. Sorta. [penny-arcade.com]

    • Another idea seemingly ripped straight from Star Trek

      It's "derms" from Neuromancer [google.com], you philistine.

      Derm [wikipedia.org]
      An adhesive patch applied to the skin in order to transmit a drug transdermally.

  • Hmmmm (Score:2, Informative)

    by AndrewBC (1675992)

    I remember seeing an article about this idea in a popular science magazine years and years ago. Glad to see it's still around for those who hate needles.

    • Glad to see it's still around for those who hate needles.

      A needle sortof awares you if some foreign agent is introduced in your body.

      Imagine this scenario: you create patches of some sort, or bandaids or somehow "inject" people unknowingly to themselves and repeat a the story at Pont-Saint-Esprit [dailymail.co.uk], but very subtle?

      I'm not a "oh noes the mercury in vaccins"-nut, but I sortof like the fact that there's a bit of a barriere before introducing chemicals or organic compounds directly into my bloodstream of which I

  • by level_headed_midwest (888889) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @09:50PM (#32946948)

    Immunizations are certainly the number one reason why children between the ages of about 9 months and six years hate going to the doctor and will kick and scream and flail as soon as they see anybody come into the exam room with a stethoscope. Vaccine patches would be great, particularly if they made it look like a sticker (which are second only to popsicles in the ability to placate an irritated youngster). Now if they'd only figure out a way to make looking in the ears and mouth easier, we'd be set!

    • by Chazerizer (934553) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @09:52PM (#32946960)
      There's really only one answer to the ears and mouth problem, which also happens to be one of my all time favorite pick-up lines: "Does this rag smell like chloroform to you?"
    • You give the kid a pretty patch, he admires the picture, slaps it on his arm, falls asleep, and you can spend the next 10, 20, or 30 minutes poking and prodding. Problem solved, right?

      Errr - maybe not. The little brat will tell all his friends at daycare about the patch that made him sleepy, and the next batch of brats will cry when you offer them a patch.

      Why do people keep having kids, anyway? They are such great pains! *

      * Disclaimer - I have three little brats of my own, and I STILL want to know why pe

    • by vlm (69642)

      Vaccine patches would be great, particularly if they made it look like a sticker

      I hope it adsorbs quickly. If the sticker is generic or not their favorite character, they immediately peel it off their skin/clothes and throw it away, or if it is their favorite character they immediately peel it off and admire it.

      which are second only to popsicles in the ability to placate an irritated youngster

      So, put the medication inside the freaking popsicle. Hmm, thats a good idea, medicated popsicles. Wonder why those aren't commercially available? Oh yes, that was patented in 1995. Maybe in a few decades we'll be able to benefit from that idea, but not until then.

      http://www [patentstorm.us]

  • Genius (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dunbal (464142) * on Sunday July 18, 2010 @09:51PM (#32946952)

    It is often said that true genius is coming up with the idea that makes everyone say "I could have thought of that".

    One of the problems with transdermal patches has always been one of controlling dosage. This is because the skin is only permeable to lipids, thanks to layers of keratin on the outside and the basement membrane lying inconveniently just before you get to any blood vessels. So anything that you needed to give your patient via the skin had to be fat-soluble, or it just wouldn't work. And then you have the problems of concentration gradients, skin thickness, how long you leave the patch on, and how "greasy" that person's natural skin is anyway. That makes for a lot of variables in delivery. Which means you can never be exactly sure of the dose.

    By piercing through the skin's outer layers into the dermis with a "microneedle", suddenly you've eliminated a few things: 1) You can deliver hydrophyllic substances (like certain viruses or their components, for example) and 2) you can control dosage much much more accurately because you can be sure that what you're delivering is going to make it to the bloodstream versus lying around in the epidermis and or never getting off the patch in the first place.

    I foresee that this technology will soon be used for much more than pediatric vaccine delivery and the creators will become very rich indeed. This doctor thinks it's a great idea. In fact the only problem is going to be for those allergic people - with previous patches all they would get is red skin, an itch, and maybe a localized rash. Now they risk a full blown type I allergic reaction.

    • by epp_b (944299)

      ...with previous patches all they would get is red skin, an itch, and maybe a localized rash.

      So, basically, someone needs to make sure that both types of patches will co-exist.

    • When are the psychopaths on Fox News going to take responsibility for getting all the whackos lathered up? No pain, no gain folks! TAKE THE SHOT. There is nothing WRONG with vaccines.
    • by TheLink (130905)

      > In fact the only problem is going to be for those allergic people
      > - with previous patches all they would get is red skin, an itch, and maybe a localized rash.
      > Now they risk a full blown type I allergic reaction.

      Just curious - does the immune system react to foreign stuff entering the body via the skin surface differently from entering via the digestive system or intramuscular or straight into the bloodstream?

  • Meh... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by epp_b (944299) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @10:00PM (#32946992)
    Let the kids suck it up. I did. It builds character.

    Now get off my lawn.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Pigeon451 (958201)

      Minor surgery without anesthesia also builds character. But I'd prefer local anesthesia -- to each their own.

  • by Dan East (318230) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @10:03PM (#32947012) Homepage Journal

    So now when the kids misbehave I won't be able to threaten them with shots from the doctor. Takes the fun right out of parenting...

  • lulz (Score:3, Funny)

    by WGFCrafty (1062506) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @10:04PM (#32947016)
    Far easier to get mercury and mind control chips into your skin if you can't see the syringe. At least before you could ask to examine your vaccine with a x-ing scope of some kind, now it's HIDDEN in the bandage. HIDDEN.

    THINK OF THE CHILDREN!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 18, 2010 @10:09PM (#32947044)

    odd how this story about good ole american know-how resembles this press release from an australian university from April?

      http://www.uq.edu.au/news/index.html?article=21034

    • by Ocker3 (1232550)
      Perhaps we need a "Simpsons did it" Corrolary for science/medicine done outside the USA previous to the current example, something like "Not First", followed by a link to whomever did it first. Like when everyone was talking about some American (or Canadian?) scientist doing work with RISUG, with no mention at all that the entire technology was invented in India (pity they didn't manage to mass-produce the compounds vital to the project).
  • In my 22 years i've been i the hospital as much as i have been at home. Docs have tried just about every medical grade adhesive for the different bandages i've needed. So far nothing works for more than an hour before some nasty skin irritation. Even OTC bandages need to come off fairly quickly. I've learned to deal with even the biggest of needles though, so its not an issue anymore. For those who are candidates for this patch some of the nastiest shots(MMR and Gardasil) can be administered pain-free. How
  • The Horror! (Score:5, Funny)

    by ceraphis (1611217) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @10:26PM (#32947122)
    I can see it now, the horror story of the future. A killer challenges you to a co-op game of Starcraft 3 and after you pwn some nubs, you high five!

    "Wait, what is this, why did you have a band aid in your hand?" *passes out*

    "The pwning has just begun, Billy Lumpkins. I'll teach you to troll the warlock forum."
  • by jnnnnn (1079877) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @10:34PM (#32947172)

    The needles are conical, about 200m diameter by 650m long, with 10m radius of curvature at the tip. They are made from a biocompatible polymer, polyvinylpyrrolidone, and mostly dissolve after about five minutes (they are highly water-soluble). The manufacturing process can be done at 23C (using a mold), avoiding damage to sensitive biological molecules. Each patch held 3 g of vaccine.

    For comparison purposes, human hair ranges in diameter from 20-200m.

    Here's the article [nature.com], with some low-res pictures even for non-subscribers.

    • by jnnnnn (1079877) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @10:37PM (#32947182)

      Slashdot has eaten my unicode. All those "m"s should be micrometers.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I guess this is what happens when Americans attempt to use the metric system...

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by roman_mir (125474)

        I kid you not, I was in a in Germany store about 2 months ago, there was a bunch of tourists, a couple came to a meat counter and the guy said: "I would like 100 kilograms" of some sausage. The woman at the counter looked funny at him and I intervened knowing how punctual the Germans sometimes are.

  • Now people will be able to inject others with toxins and it will be impossible to detect it.
    What you have is a stealth needle, this idea in my opinion is incredibly dangerous, but I guess it will be good for mercenaries because it will reduce the costs.

    There is a reason why we can feel needles.

    • I doubt that it will make much difference, in practice. If somebody can sneak up and slap a patch on you, they can also sneak up and stab you with an umbrella [wikipedia.org]...

      More generally, the reason that this 'biocompatible microneedle array' stuff is considered medically interesting is because it lets you get the vaccine you want past the skin, rather than being forced to choose from agents that already pass through skin properly, or re-developing a vaccine from the drawing board to make sure that it is capable o
    • by Tom (822)

      There is a reason why we can feel needles.

      Yes, because they puncture nerves that proceed to yell "invasion! our outer barrier has been breached! potentially fatal wound! need help here, right now!" and the only reason we only feel a prick and not excruciating pain is that it is only a few nerves screaming.

      Your point being? Anything that could potentially be abused should be outlawed? I guess we as a species decided to leave that road when we choose to use fire instead of abandoning the concept as potentially dangerous.

      • by elucido (870205) *

        There is a reason why we can feel needles.

        Yes, because they puncture nerves that proceed to yell "invasion! our outer barrier has been breached! potentially fatal wound! need help here, right now!" and the only reason we only feel a prick and not excruciating pain is that it is only a few nerves screaming.

        Your point being? Anything that could potentially be abused should be outlawed? I guess we as a species decided to leave that road when we choose to use fire instead of abandoning the concept as potentially dangerous.

        When did I say it should be outlawed?

        What I said is we need to be realistic and stop pretending like we are safe, or pretending like some authority can keep us safe. Nobody is safe and nothing can keep anybody safe.

  • So will Andrew Wakefield be using his copious free time in forced retirement to mount a pseudo-religious campaign against these patches, too?

  • I remember reading about microneedle patches all the time in the 1990s. It was vaporware.

  • How expensive will these be? Will they be more expensive or not then needles? If more expensive, then it would mean almost nothing, except extra cost. If less expensive, then it could mean that people with a much lower training will be able to hand them out in many poor regions in the world.

  • For vaccine delivery.
    I wonder how difficult it would to make something similar in a very small, low-cost lab.
    This could be really good thing in places where a lot of people who don't have a lot of money need a vaccine.

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