Minimizing the risk of injury and transmission of diseases: An injection needle that softens when inserted.
An outstanding property of gallium is its low melting point of just under 30 degrees Celsius. This makes the technology metal interesting for numerous application areas, from soft robotics and the cooling of processors to environmentally friendly liquid catalysts for the chemical industry. Gallium also shows great potential in the field of medical technology. A research team at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology has developed an intravenous needle based on the metal, encapsulated in ultra-soft silicone material, which adapts perfectly to biological tissue: When inserted, it becomes soft due to body temperature and remains so.
Dr. Jae-Woong Jeong, one of the study leaders, explains that this could solve many global problems in the healthcare sector when using conventional medical needles made of hard materials such as stainless steel or plastic. On the one hand, the risk of injury could be minimized, ranging from minor tissue damage at the injection sites to severe inflammation. On the other hand, because the needle remains soft after use, multiple uses would be prevented – a practice that reduces costs but promotes the transmission of dangerous diseases such as HIV and hepatitis B/C and is therefore unethical.
Tests on mice showed that the biocompatible needles cause significantly less inflammation than standard infusion devices but administer medication just as reliably. In addition, a customized, ultra-thin temperature sensor can be integrated into the needle to optimize healthcare further, the researchers say. A single device could monitor the patient’s body temperature and determine whether fluid leaks when the needle is inserted.
The scientists believe their invention can be used for a range of clinical applications. In addition to injection needles, it is also possible to redesign other sharp medical instruments.
More on gallium in medicine: a lot of research is being carried out into the use of the technology metal in healthcare, whether as a component of flexible wearable medical gadgets or in the development of new types of implants that dissolve in the body after they have served their purpose. Gallium has also been used in studies to combat antibiotic-resistant bacteria, in brain research, and even as a drug.