"You'll just feel a sharp sting..." No, don't look away, because these words may soon be a thing of the past. A needleless device that jets medicine through the skin could bring an end to painful injections. It could also provide developing countries with a way to deliver powdered drugs, which do not require refrigeration.
To counter this limitation, Ian Hunter at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and his colleagues developed a device based on a "Lorentz force" mechanism. This consists of a coiled wire that's wrapped around a powerful magnet at one end and attached to a piston at the other. When a current is applied to the wire it interacts with the magnet, pushing the piston forwards. This in turn pushes a liquid drug through a hole the width of a mosquito's proboscis and into the skin. The force can be controlled by varying the current applied to the coil, which allows precise control over dose and depth (Medical Engineering and Physics).
The team is now working on adding a vibratory mechanism to their device to allow it to transform powdered drugs into a form suitable for injection. "If you vibrate a powder the drug crystals jiggle around, become energized and behave in a similar way to a fluid," says Hunter.
If successful, their device could help increase the availability of drugs in the developing world, because powdered drugs are more stable. "It's early days but we're pretty excited," says Hunter.
ANTIBIOTIC USE DROPS
By Jessica Hamzelou
We've long been warned about the dangers of antibiotic overuse, Now, it seems the penny has finally dropped. A report by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration suggests that antibiotic use in children is falling, although they still remain a popular treatment.
A team from the FDA studied a national database of U.S. drug prescriptions for children under 17 between 2002 and 2010 and found that in this period they fell by around 9 percent. Prescriptions for antibiotics dropped further still, by 14 percent, although they still made up a quarter of the total. Overuse of antibiotics is a concern because it can lead to bacterial resistance.
Meanwhile, prescriptions for drugs to treat allergies, pain and colds also decreased, while those for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) soared by 46 percent (Pediatrics).
NEW TEST FOR AUTISM ON HORIZON
By Andy Coghlan
Patterns of electrical brain activity in the brain could provide a new test for diagnosing classical autism.
At present, a diagnosis is made by assessing a child's behavior and clinical history. The new electroencephalogram (EEG) test, in which 24 electrodes are placed on a child's scalp, was developed at Boston Children's Hospital in Massachusetts.
It identified 33 patterns of electrical connectivity between pairs of brain regions that were strikingly and consistently different in 430 children with autism aged 2 to 12, compared with 554 neurotypical controls (BMC Medicine). A key feature of autism is thought to be poor connectivity between areas linked to language.
The results now need to be compared against those for conditions with which autism could be confused, like Asperger's syndrome.
THE DRONELINESS OF THE LONG-DISTANCE RUNNER
By Paul Marks
Joggers who find it hard to set a steady pace could soon have a robot companion to help -- a small, quad-rotor helicopter drone. The system, called Joggobot, is being developed by Floyd Mueller and Eberhard Grather at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in Australia.
The duo plan to allow users to enter their preferred running speed into a smartphone app that controls the drone so it flies ahead of a jogger at just the right pace. Or it could be set to maintain a distance of a few meters no matter what pace a runner is going, just for fun.
They tested their idea using the foam-fendered AR Drone made by Parrot of Paris, France, programming it using custom software to follow a bright blue and orange pattern painted on a runner's T-shirt. As soon as an on-board camera sees the shirt, the craft takes off and hovers about a meter off the ground. If it loses sight of the pattern, the drone lands automatically.
Mueller says he and Grather are tinkering with settings to test what motivates runners. "Should the robot be more like a coach or more like a pet?" he asks. "One might make the exercise more effective, but the other might make it more fun. Which one is 'better'? And is there a 'better'?"