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Needle-Free Insulin Delivery on the Way

Matchbook-Size Sonic Pump Worn as Patch

From the WebMD Archives

Oct. 25, 2002 -- Next to a cure, it's a diabetic's dream: painless, needle-free insulin delivery from a tiny, wearable, electronic patch. Now it may no longer be a dream.

A team of engineers led by Penn State's Robert Newnham, PhD, has built a prototype ultrasonic insulin patch. It weighs less than an ounce and is an inch-and-a-half square. Like existing two-pound sonic devices, the new patch uses sound waves to drive insulin through the skin.

Now Penn State researcher Nadine Barrie Smith, PhD, and colleagues report that the device can safely deliver insulin in rats. The study appears in the October issue of the journal IEEE Transactions on Ultrasonics, Ferroelectrics, and Frequency Control.

"This research forms the cornerstone to developing a clinically approved device for transdermal insulin delivery," Smith and colleagues write.

The device might also be used to deliver other medications besides insulin. Possible applications include AIDS drugs, pain relievers, asthma drugs, and hormones.

Currently it takes about 20 minutes for the patch to deliver a dose of insulin. Data from the experiment suggests that the system can be fine-tuned to deliver its dose in one to five minutes. -->