A groundbreaking development could soon make vaccination programmes painless and hassle-free.
The Optical Society's journal Optics Letters contained a paper written by Seoul National University's professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering Jack Yoh that described a laser-based inoculation system that sends drugs and compounds into the skin through microscopic jets.
If this development reaches the market, it could supplant hypodermic needles and take the pain out of injections.
It involves a small adaptor containing the substance that is to be injected, as well as a laser and a water-filled chamber that behaves as a "driving fluid", the researchers explained.
When a laser pulse is activated, it causes the driving fluid to generate a bubble of vapour, which causes the drug to leave a nozzle that is just slightly wider than a human hair.
Professor Yoh explained that this compound can then smoothly enter the skin and reach the "targeted depth underneath" without causing any splashback.
Animal tests have shown the laser injector can reach several millimetres down and does not cause any tissue damage, with the quickness and narrowness or the jet causing very limited or non-existent pain.
The professor noted that the aim of international healthcare providers will be to target the epidermal layer, which he said has "no nerve endings", which could cause injections to be "completely pain-free".
He is currently working alongside a firm in order to produce replaceable and low-cost injectors for use in medical facilities.
"Further work would be necessary to adopt it for scenarios like mass vaccine injections for children," Professor Yoh admitted.
International health insurance policyholders could currently have received countless painful needle injections, for purposes including annual flu shots, childhood vaccination programmes, malaria inoculations and insulin boosts.
There are many times when nations or governments could have use for large-scale laser vaccination programmes, including during pandemics, when a new viral strain is discovered, in the event of a bioterrorist attack or to prevent cholera after a natural disaster.
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