Thyroid UK

Why 361 needles are better than one

Why 361 needles are better than one

There is currently a BBC story about a micro-needle array. Two things struck me:

When used to take samples for analysis, they don't take blood, but the interstitial fluid that permeates the space between cells. So what would happen if we measured thyroid hormone levels in that fluid rather than blood? Does it make any difference? I guess there is one person here who is more likely to have a good idea than most.

The arrays can also be used to deliver medicines. Later in the article is states: Prof Donnelly's team have used the patches to administer everything from insulin to ibuprofen. So would it be feasible to deliver thyroid hormone? As I see it, there are potential advantages such as the avoidance of gut absorption issues.

As always, opinions would be interesting.


6 December 2014 Last updated at 01:15

Why 361 needles are better than one

By Roland Pease BBC Radio Science Unit

One in 10 of us are said to have a fear of the hypodermic needle, a necessary but frequently uncomfortable fact of medical life.

While the needle is an efficient way to administer drugs and take samples for analysis, it still involves sticking a sharp bit of metal into the body.

This is problematic for many children, but particularly premature babies.

Since they are typically ill, premature babies are given a lot of medicines. But, because of their vulnerability, doctors need to take frequent blood samples as to ensure they get the right dose.

This could come in the form of regular injections, or the insertion of a permanent cannula, a procedure which is difficult enough to administer in grown adults.

'Like a cat's tongue'

Many researchers have tried to find an alternative solution.

Now, Prof Ryan Donnelly from Queens University Belfast and his team think they have come up with a solution. Not one needle, but 361.

The device looks like a small, clear plastic patch about half a centimetre across, which easily sits on the tip of your finger. One side looks quite rough.

"It's a patch with 361 tiny, individual needles on it," explains Prof Donnelly.

The patch feels slightly rough to the touch, something akin to Velcro or a cats tongue. But the individual needles are extremely hard, and sharp at the tips.

Unlike normal hypodermic needles, these microneedles only penetrate the top layer of your skin. They don't contact the nerves, which is why you feel no pain. Nor do they go into your blood vessels.

Instead they collect the so called interstitial fluid which surrounds the cells in the outer layer of skin.

This fluid contains all the information the doctor requires.

Rest of this version of the story here:

There are many links over several years to this sort of technology.


4 Replies

It's is truly amazing how scientists are able to fathom out some brilliant inventions, particularly when it comes to helping the human race and causing less pain. The patch itself and its capabilities in the future are futuristic.

1 like

Sounds amazing ! Thank you for the interesting post.


Seems like a win win, no brainer. Do we know when it will come into general use ?


There are definitely some very clever men and women around. I take my hat off to them.


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