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Paging Dr. “Bones” McCoy: Needle-Free Injections With Lasers

This is going to be fascinating news for those of you out there with trypanophobia–fear of hypodermic needles. Pantech Biosolutions has just been given approval for its painless drug delivery system that uses frickin’ laser beams.

pantech

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This is going to be fascinating news for those of you out there with trypanophobia–fear of hypodermic needles. Pantech Biosolutions has just been given approval for its painless drug delivery system that uses frickin’ laser beams.

Painless alternatives to the traditional needle have been pursued for years, including all sorts of notions like frozen needle tips and micro-needle drug “patches.” But this new solution uses an approach that the company says has “dramatically increased drug transport” powers compared to “competitive technologies.” Instead of piercing your skin with tubes of metal, Pantech’s device, known as PLEASE (Painless Laser Epidermal System), blazes a bunch of tiny holes in your skin using a powerful laser beam.

Sure, this evokes Dr. “Bones” McCoy’s hissing hypo from Star Trek, but the system is incredibly simple: PLEASE channels powerful infra-red light from the laser onto a moving mirror, and then onto many tiny spots of the patient’s skin for a precisely controlled amount of time. The light zaps “micropores” through your epidermis (the outer layer of skin) and then a drug-soaked patch is applied on the top, from where the drug molecules make their way through the pores and over time into the patient’s bloodstream. This sort of technique is “the only way” to apply large-molecule drugs through the skin, and it may have thousands of applications where regular injections are currently the norm–Pantech highlights the painful and frequent injections women typically have to endure when taking part in IVF programs.

After passing numerous in-lab and in-vivo tests, the system’s just been given CE approval so it can be marketed in Europe, so you may even get to experience one sooner than you think. The tech is exciting, of course, because this “professional” grade system is likely to evolve and be refined into a simpler, cheaper, and more portable consumer-level device–assuming its relatively simple components can be reduced in price. At which point the world’s diabetes sufferers will start to get very interested indeed.

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About the author

I'm covering the science/tech/generally-exciting-and-innovative beat for Fast Company. Follow me on Twitter, or Google+ and you'll hear tons of interesting stuff, I promise. I've also got a PhD, and worked in such roles as professional scientist and theater technician...thankfully avoiding jobs like bodyguard and chicken shed-cleaner (bonus points if you get that reference!)

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