Hacker News new | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
MIT Builds A Needle-Free Drug Injector (npr.org)
165 points by JumpCrisscross on May 26, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 41 comments

When I was a kid, they used the exact same injectors to vaccinate us in school. That was in mid-80s. This thing was indeed virtually painless and left a funny air bubble under the skin that disappeared in an hour. As far as I was concerned it was awesome. But apparently it had some problems (infections?) and the program ended as quickly as it started.

The posted article mentions that the base technology is not new, that the problem with the existing variants was infections, and that the reported device is a refinement on this decades-old technology.

>left a funny air bubble

>apparently it had some problems

Air emboli?

An air embolism would only be a problem if it was in a blood vessel. Those injectors were intramuscular and the air just diffused back out through the tissue.

I can't think of a case where this can be a problem by accident. Back when I was in the medical school (Bulgaria, Eastern Europe) we sometimes used air embolism to kill off experimental animals. I remember that the quantity of air needed is substantial. Something like 20-50 cubic centimeters needed to kill a rabbit reliably by venous (right heart) embolism. I imagine the quantity needed to kill a human is quite a lot bigger. Of course, it's not the same if you insert air in the carotid artery. I guess that quite smaller quantity there will kill a human. I speculate something in the range below 1 cm3.

The most interesting part is described near the end: they are able to inject powder. The device vibrates the powder to the point it behaves as liquid and thus can be injected easily. Cool :D

Somebody correct me please; I imagine they care about powder because drugs (or vaccines?) in powdered form could sustain longer storage than liquid form.


That is indeed a very likely explanation

Remember antibiotics that come as a powder and that have to be mixed at home, and have a very short life after being mixed? While the pill version has a standart shelf life?

I assume hence vaccines that have to be kept in fridges now would come as a powder.

So I guess we don't have to take pills anymore, just inject it!

It's probably also much easier to transport.

It would be great if they could get this down to almost no cost so its accessible to and preferred by hard drug users. While drug abuse and addiction is an extremely sad human habit, it is magnified by the side effects of needle sharing and the diseases that are typically accidentally passed on by users.

On top of it if this was paired with cheap electronic regulation mechanisms it could at least attempt to discourage a user from overdosing. I know its somewhat of an odd proposal but I think there could be potential here to help a population thats already down and out from succumbing as frequently to death and disease as they do today.

Psychedelic drug abuse is so widespread because cure to addiction of such drugs is not a priority by drug companies and government. They are also not so interested in research in these drugs. These problems are result of our own ostrich response.

Why discourage the Darwin effect?

Even if you don't care about the health of IV drug users at all, they spread disease to other people, and when they show up at the hospital it's everyone else who ends up paying the bill, since they usually have no money.

But note that this device is for IM (intra-muscular) not IV. While it certainly would be great for harm control, most hard drug users probably wouldn't bother.

I'd love for this to exist, being a hater of needles. But it seems a bit odd to say:

"""The new injector has yet to be tested on people, but has been used on animals, like sheep, without apparent discomfort. "The sheep did not seem to even be aware that they were being injected," Hunter says"""

Are sheep not herd animals that almost never show discomfort or pain? Something to do with not wanting to get picked off by predators? I've never seen a sheep act hurt. I've even seen one get its back broken by a horse and it just lay there like it was fine.

They will still flinch when you poke them. Reactions to chronic discomfort may be hidden, but acute pain still causes a reaction (note: this is from my experience growing up in the fields around farm animals. I've not tried a controlled experiment, nor do I know of one :)

I sort of hope you’re right because the idea of a technology that could inject things into people without them even knowing freaks me out a little bit.

One solution to this problem would be to regulate the injectors so that they had to put a mild, distinctive kind of pressure on your skin as they injected into it.

Not a scientific account, exactly, but I seem to recall from reading James Herriot that some animals just do not care about injections, at all. Same with (IIRC) some cows and dogs, at least. This new device sounds cool, but I'm not confident it doesn't hurt.

Slightly off-topic, but isn't it interesting how often news like this is broken with MIT as the subject of the headline: "MIT builds…", "MIT discovers…", etc?

In general, reports originating from universities tend to be billed as "Scientists discover…, "A report from Harvard suggests…", and the like.

Its indicative of, and certainly amplifies, the MIT brand.

Exactly, I've noticed this time and time again.

> MIT discovers ... > MIT students make brilliant startup ... > MIT professors build ...

Meanwhile, let's say something originated from RPI. It would say,

> Scientists discovered a new vaccine that ...

I think it helps the pull- MIT is a brand name, so people will click the link.

I experienced one of the older versions of this injector at a free vaccinations offered by my college. I'd say it hurt more than the needle, but it was faster. They were also vaccinating a huge line of thousands of students fairly quickly.

After the injection was done it looked like there was a tiny worm sticking out of my arm (where the vaccine was kinda leaking out). Weird!

Long time back I saw someone demonstrate an needle free injection using osmosis (or reverse osmosis) on Discovery channel. It was pretty amazing and this article reminded me of that. Unfortunately I can't really find anything like that on Google right now. Can osmosis be used to inject drugs or is my memory completely incorrect?

You may be thinking of DMSO: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dimethyl_sulfoxide

It's a gel that easily penetrates the skin and can serve as a drug delivery system. The KGB was said to use it to administer poison to assassination victims. Its history has been plagued by controversy, which has slowed down research on its many potential medical uses.

Can this be tailored for intravenous use? The tricky thing is calculating the depth of the vein and it's thickness.

Drop one of these off at Insite and they'll figure it out in an hour.


It would be insanely cool if this becomes available one day for human use. I hate getting shots with a passion. Heck, something like this might actually prevent the spreading of diseases from needle sharing. I don't know how likely it is that junkies will be able to afford one of these units but I'd imagine that one day the cost would go down enough for regular people to buy one. (In the beginning they will probably cost 10x what they're actually worth.)

This sort of device has actually been in use for a number of decades. There are associated downsides like biological transfer and the infiltration of skin cells. I'm afraid you'll have to suck it up for a while yet.

edit: A citation: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jet_injector

Inject drugs into people without making them notice? This makes a dangerous weapon.

Since you can already easily achieve this through the use of food or drink as the delivery mechanism, I don't see how this changes things much.

With food or drink you have to at least have some access to it. With an injector, you could hit someone on the street just by walking by/near them. I make my own food, but I walk by hundreds of people every day.

Reminds me of the umbrella murder of Georgi Markov[1].

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georgi_Markov#Murder

Wow, pretty amazing. It's a lot like a Star Trek "hypospray."

Anyway, I can imagine a lot less kids crying when getting their inoculation. Seeing a huge needle (to a child) is quite scary and this device does not look scary at all. In fact, it looks a lot like a toy.

I wonder how they can reuse the device between patients (probe ejection)?

In reality, I fear this tool will never see the marketplace due to the medical industry stranglehold.

Nope - they improved existing technology - such things were in use more than 30 years ago.

"Nope"? The title says "builds" not "invents". The body of the article reads: "Jet injection technology has been around for quite a while. It's been used in mechanical devices for more than a century".

So yes, they are improving an existing technology, the article says so and they point which improvements they made.

EDIT: Grammar, wording.

Everything old is new again, at an industrial park near me a company back in the late 1970s early 1980s developed a similar device.

  It used air pressure or some way of forcing medicine through the skin without needles it's called the Preci-Jet.

e-ink was invented during the 70's too! Sometimes inventions are made before their time.

Sure, I remember reading about purple stuff found in a swamp being studied and a few years later OLED is in my hand as the screen on my phone.

Star Trek here we come!

As long as it doesn't look like a "real" hypospray, you can avoid the CBS legal team: http://code.google.com/p/moonblink/wiki/Tricorder

Surprisingly accurate prediction.

Applications are open for YC Summer 2019

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact