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No-Pain Shots Possible through Nanotechnology

Drug delivery that avoids painful injections is becoming more of a reality thanks to nanotechnology. One of the medical advances portrayed on the original Star Trek series was when Dr. McCoy pressed a device against a patient’s arm to deliver a drug dose with a little “whoosh” and no accompanying “ouch.”

Researchers at the University of Michigan are working on the nanoparticle field extraction thruster (nanoFET), developed to provide propulsion for spacecraft. This device uses nanoparticles that get charged when they lose electrons as they come into contact with an electrode at a positive voltage. After the nanoparticles are charged, they can be accelerated by an electric field, providing thrust to a spacecraft.

Researchers think there could be a method to deliver nanoparticles that contain therapeutic drugs using the nanoFET. Researchers believe that nanoparticles coming out of the nanoFET will just pass through a patient’s skin into the bloodstream. This application is just an idea at this time, but it’s one whose outcome is eagerly anticipated.

Another advance in painless drug delivery is happening as various researchers are encapsulating drugs in emulsion nanoparticles that transport the drug through your skin; you simply spread the emulsion, as you do hand lotion, on your skin.

The nanoparticles are small enough that they are simply absorbed through the skin. The emulsion provides a reservoir of the drug just under the surface of your skin from which the drug can continue to move into your bloodstream, maintaining stable levels of the drug over time.

This method avoids passing the drug through your stomach with the associated side effects (for example, some pain relief drugs can cause ulcers when taken orally) and also frees you from the pain of getting an injection or the discomfort of a patch on your skin.

This technique may eventually be used to deliver a range of drugs, such as hormones, pain killers, allergy medications, and arthritis and cancer treatments.

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