Micro-barbs Could Make Shots Less Painful

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No one likes getting shots. “They’re painful,” says engineer Howon Lee at Rutgers University in Piscataway, N.J. “I hate them, and everyone hates them.” But they’re an effective way to deliver protective vaccines and medicines. So Lee has helped develop a new type of microneedle — one that can barely be felt.

Scientists have been working on miniature needles for years. The idea is to deliver a liquid drug, but with a needle so small it doesn’t sting. A microneedle pokes into the skin just a fraction as deeply as an ordinary needle. But this has had a downside, too. Most such devices are smooth, notes Lee. They can’t stay put long enough to deliver a full dose.