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Pain free injections

18 September 2007

University researchers have shown that micro-needles are a safer and less painful way of delivering vaccines and other medicines than a conventional hypodermic syringe.

New micro-needles developed globally and studied clinically by the University’s Welsh School of Pharmacy are designed to avoid impacting pain receptors and blood vessels.

It is hoped that micro-needles could eventually be used as replacements for many conventional injections, even raising the possibility of non-medically trained people administering such treatment.

The Welsh School of Pharmacy’s Gene Delivery Research Group, working with clinicians at Gwent Healthcare NHS Trust, found that healthy volunteers reported less pain and sensation when they were injected with an array of micro-needles than with a hypodermic syringe.

Dr James Birchall, a senior lecturer at the Welsh School of Pharmacy, said, "Micro-needles are designed specifically to penetrate the outer layer of the skin without impacting on pain receptors and blood vessels.

"Our pilot study confirms that these devices are likely to be well received by patients and clinicians."

As part of the research, funded by The British Skin Foundation, volunteers received an injection by one of two types of micro-needle. Volunteers were then asked to complete a pain scale assessment and describe the injection sensation to gauge the impact of the different injection methods.

The level of pain was perceived to be five times lower with micro-needles than with a conventional hypodermic needle and syringe. The study also provided unique information on skin healing following micro-needle puncture.

Mohammed Inaam-ul Haq, a PhD researcher of the Gene Delivery Research Group, said, "Micro-needles provide a method for delivering medicines into and through skin and our pilot study has shown that volunteers report significantly less pain with a micro-needle. Skin trauma is also minimal compared to a hypodermic needle.

"Globally, one of the biggest problems we face is getting vaccines to those places and people who need them most. Micro-needles offer the possibility of mass distribution and self-administration."