New Zealand scientists have helped develop an injector without a needle that may spell the end of the dreaded jab.
The injector, which looks like something from Star Trek, is a step up from existing injectors without needles - it can deliver controlled doses at different levels of force in a jet about the same width as a mosquito's proboscis of 0.1mm, without needing a needle to pierce the skin.
The injector is said to feel no worse than a mosquito bite, useful for those with needle phobias, and also eliminates the risk of medics accidentally jabbing themselves.
It could also prove useful for injecting babies and those who need to inject regularly.
Auckland University's Andrew Taberner, and Ian Hunter who is now with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US, along with MIT's Catherine Hogan, have developed the injector, which they hope to trial on humans, New Scientist reports.
Systems without needles already exist, but they use explosive forces to penetrate the skin with a liquid drug. They release the same amount of medicine to a preset depth.
To counter this limitation, the scientists have developed the ray gun-type injector, which uses a wire coil around a powerful magnet, driving a piston that pushes a liquid drug through a small hole and into the skin.
Varying the current applied to the coil allows precise control over dose and depth.
That control should also allow it to vibrate powdered drugs so that they behave like liquids, suitable for injection.
Powdered drugs are more stable than liquid drugs, which generally need refrigeration, and can therefore be more widely used in the developing world.