The only painful part of wearing an adhesive bandage is having to peel them off, so researchers at Purdue University's Birck Nanotechnology Center have developed a way to turn Band-Aids into a nearly pain free alternative to needles. By integrating a tiny heat-powered pump, adhesive patches could automatically deliver medication to a patient without the need for a painful prick.
What's most interesting is that the tiny pump isn't packed full of nano-scale sized bleeding-edge technology. Instead, a small chamber sandwiched between layers of flexible polymer is filled with nothing more than sugar and baker's yeast. When the patch is stuck to the skin and moistened, the water and the patient's body heat causes the yeast and sugar to ferment which produces carbon dioxide. And as the CO2 gas causes the chamber to expand, it pushes against the flexible polymer membranes which could one day be covered in microneedles that automatically inject a given type of medication through the skin without the patient ever feeling a thing.
The Purdue researchers aren't the first to explore the possibilites of the microneedle approach, but the development of their fermentation pump means that medicinal patches could be incredibly cheap to produce, and easy to use. And somehow slapping a Tylenol patch on your forehead just seems like it would be far more effective than taking a pill. [Purdue University via Gizmag]
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