I’m not terribly keen on snakes, but I don’t have an Indiana Jones-type phobia about them. What I am terrified of, however, is needles. I’ve had fillings done without injection in the past and almost threw up when I was put on a drip.

I’m not alone, either and fellow trypanophobes will share my excitement at news from the University of British Columbia this morning that a patch which could make drawing blood for testing a thing of the past.

Working with the Paul Scherrer Institut in Switzerland, a team of researchers has successfully tested a patch filled with millimetre-long “needle-like projections” capable of monitoring drug effectiveness. Because the microneedles only penetrate the outer layer of skin, where there’s no nerve endings, the patch itself is painless.

120472_webSadly, the patch isn’t going to replace blood tests in general any time soon, but it could be deployed to help people on treatments which require regular testing to see if prescribed drugs are having an effect.

From a release about the research, which has been published in Scientific Reports.

The microneedle created by Ranamukhaarachchi and his colleagues was developed to monitor the antibiotic vancomycin, which is used to treat serious infections and is administered through an intravenous line. Patients taking the antibiotic undergo three to four blood draws per day and need to be closely monitored because vancomycin can cause life-threatening toxic side effects.

“Many groups are researching microneedle technology for painless vaccines and drug delivery,” said researcher Sahan Ranamukhaarachchi, “using them to painlessly monitor drugs is a newer idea.”

“The patch works by drawing a small amount of fluid from the epidermis to test, rather than blood. This is probably one of the smallest probe volumes ever recorded for a medically relevant analysis,” said Urs Hafeli, associate professor in UBC’s faculty of pharmaceutical sciences.

It’s also, apparently, highly cost effective.

Vancomycin-HRP is pre-loaded to the microneedle surface (1). Vancomycin present in the sample competes for the acetyl-L-lysine-D-alanine-D-alanine binding sites on the microneedle surface and displaces vancomycin-HRP (2). The enzyme-linked TMB assay is used to quantify (in the optofluidic detection chamber/waveguide) the level of bound vancomycin-HRP remaining on the surface (3).
Vancomycin-HRP is pre-loaded to the microneedle surface (1). Vancomycin present in the sample competes for the acetyl-L-lysine-D-alanine-D-alanine binding sites on the microneedle surface and displaces vancomycin-HRP (2). The enzyme-linked TMB assay is used to quantify (in the optofluidic detection chamber/waveguide) the level of bound vancomycin-HRP remaining on the surface (3).
[Via: Eurekalert, Image: Sahan Ranamukhaarachchi]
Adam is the Editorial Director at htxt media. He has been writing about technology for almost two full decades now. In a previous life, he was the editor of PC Format and Digital Camera Shopper in the UK, before going on to work as a freelance journalist for seven years. His work has appeared in or on Stuff, The Guardian, Linux Format, TechRadar, Wired.co.uk, PC Gamer, Green Futures, The Journalist, The Ecologist and The Review. Adam moved to South Africa in 2012 and loves 3D printers, MakerFairs and tech hubs. He hates seafood. None of his friends remember this when cooking.