Even if it means protection from dangerous, even fatal diseases, having a needle jabbed into your skin and liquid sickness squirted into your flesh is no fun for anyone. There are other needleless injection solutions out there, but a new microneedle array made completely out of dried sugar promises to make vaccination not only painless, but dirt cheap.
As you might expect, microneedle arrays administer vaccinations with a whole bunch of tiny needles that are sufficient to get stuff through the skin, but not big enough to hurt. It's not exactly a new technology; FujiFilm came up with one last year. But this all-sugar model developed by researchers at King's College London with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has a whole bunch of benefits in addition to the painless part.
The sugar arrays can have a dried version of a vaccine built right in, which makes extended storage a breeze, and since they're disposable, there's no worry about contamination from reused needles. On top of all that, sugar is pretty dang cheap, so with just the right injection-mold, you can churn these suckers out for next to nothing. And if that wasn't enough, it turns out that introduction through the upper layers of skin even sends out a call to specialised cells that kick your body's immune system in to high-gear, making this type of vaccination super fast-acting.
So far, microneedle arrays—sugar and non-sugar alike—are undergoing animal testing, but so far, all signs point to "awesome." Hopefully it won't be long before this sweet, pain-free prick hits the world at large. [King's College London via Geek.com]