Sandia Labs’ “microneedle” technology could help doctors with painless fluid drawing

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Nobody likes needles, but a new technology being developed at Sandia National labs is promising a new type of needle that’s painless, and could protect your health.

Holding a penny up for comparison, Sandia National Laboratories Research Chemist Ronan Polsky proudly shows off what scientists call “microneedles.”

“So it’s about the same size as the width of that penny right there,” said Polsky, speaking of the edge of a penny.

While it’s small, the microneedle technology may hold big promise for measuring data within the human body. The microneedles might even be able to end all of those painful needle pricks people are used to getting at the doctor’s office when they have their blood drawn.

“We actually want to use them as a substitute for a blood test that you might do at the hospital, or the doctor’s office, or the clinic,” said Polsky.

The needles are only about 1.5 millimeters tall. Because they’re so small, according to Polsky, they don’t really hurt.

“The needles will pierce the most outer layers of the skin, but they’re so small they don’t hit your nerve endings,” said Polsky.

Since microneedles are nearly pain free, Sandia National Labs and medical researchers at the UNM Health Sciences Center are hoping to fashion the microneedles into a wireless data monitor that you’d wear on your wrist, much like the fitness tracker technology that’s been popularized by companies like “FitBit.”

“(The device) goes into the forearm and fluid will collect up in these glass capillaries,” said Polsky.

That fluid they’d collect, isn’t blood either. It’s the clear fluid under the first layers of your skin.

“So we want to look at your blood sugar, your lactic levels, your electrolyte levels,” said Polsky.

The needles could even help with cancer research in the future.

“We’ve discovered that pulling this fluid out of the skin, we can see some of these same cancer markers,” said Polsky.

Sandia National Labs and UNM Health Sciences are still testing the needles. They are working on a business partnership to integrate the needles into a self-contained device, according to Sandia National Labs.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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