Nicolle takes the pain out of needles

THE push to develop needles for painless delivery of drugs or vaccines is being spearheaded - microscopically - by research at University College Cork.

Nicolle Wilke, a PhD student on the team at the Department of Microelectronics, was chosen as winner of UCC’s Science for All postgraduate student public presentation competition on Wednesday. Rather than their actual research, competitors were judged on how they communicated the science of their work in a manner easily understandable to people with little or no scientific background.

The team at the Tyndall Institute in UCC have explored various methods to find optimum shapes and lengths of needle tips, involving liquid and gas immersion of silicon discs.

The aim is to develop microneedles which pierce the outer layer of skin but do not reach a patient’s nerve ends.

The other finalists were:

* Caroline Blackshields, school of pharmacy, who is working to find the optimum size of microscopic beads for controlled delivery of local anaesthetics in post-operative wounds.

* Daniel Doolan, computer science department, who is formulating simple codes for linking mobile devices, with major potential for the games industry.

* Robert Healy, chemistry department, who is developing a filter to separate gases and particles in a chamber simulating the formation of smog, aiming to find which gases are the main culprits in causing smog.

* Siobháin O’Mahony, psychiatry department, who has found that probiotic treatment at an early age could prevent the onset in later life of irritable bowel syndrome, which affects one-fifth of the population.

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