Researchers in the Netherlands are developing laser technology to enable “virtually painless” needleless injections in what they call a breakthrough that will alleviate fear and lower the vaccination threshold.
The “Bubble Gun” uses a laser to push tiny droplets through the outer layer of the skin, said David Fernandez Rivas, professor at the University of Twente and research affiliate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who founded the idea. .
The process is faster than a mosquito bite and “shouldn’t cause pain” because the nerve endings in the skin are not affected, he said, adding that this would be studied further.
“In a millisecond, the glass that contains the liquid is heated by a laser, a bubble is created in the liquid, pushing the liquid at a speed of at least 100 km per hour,” he said during an interview in his laboratory.
“It allows us to penetrate the skin without damaging it. We don’t see any injuries or entry points.
Rivas expects the invention not only to help more people get vaccinated, but also to prevent the risk of contamination from dirty needles and reduce medical waste.
Tests on tissue samples were successfully completed with a European Union grant of 1.5 million euros ($ 2.35 million).
A request for funding to begin human testing with volunteers is expected to be submitted this month, Rivas said.
A new start-up will work with the pharmaceutical industry to test and commercialize the “Bubble Gun” technology, he said.
However, it could take between one and three years for the method to be accessible to the general public, depending on the progress of research and regulatory issues.
About one in five Dutch people are afraid of needles, said Henk Schenk, who offers therapy to help those in acute pain.
“Needle phobia is more common than you might think. People are ashamed to admit it.
Some people trace their fears to traumatic childhood hospitalization or are afraid to give up control.
A small number of about one in 1,000 have a deep phobia that requires repeated sessions to prepare them for a jab.
“During the (coronavirus) pandemic… you see that a lot of people who were able to avoid it are now up against the wall. People who need to be vaccinated against COVID-19 are an important group for me this year. “
Patient Astrid Nijsen, a 31-year-old musical actress who has had 10 sessions with Dr Schenk, says she would still be anxious to get the shot, even without a needle.
“It started at puberty. When I see a needle, or need to be vaccinated, I just want to go. I will demolish the place just to avoid getting shot at, ”she said.