Babies, stop your crying. Adults, stop your crying. (You know who you are.) Scientists from the National University of Singapore have developed a microneedle patch that can deliver effective doses of the popular painkiller lidocaine without the need for needles.

Their research builds upon prior work done in their own lab earlier this summer, where they successfully injected collagen through the patch. Relying on dozens of 600-micrometer-long polymeric needles, the patch outperforms traditional transdermal patches in both application time and dosage. Also, they can be fashioned into fun shapes, like the bird featured below.

Scientists have developed a new patch that relies on dozens of microneedles in an effort to minimize patient discomfort. National University of Singapore. The National University of Singapore

Each tiny needle produces an equally tiny porous channel in the skin. With each successive breakthrough, the team moves closer toward a fully functional patch that can deliver vaccines and medication, and be manufactured in different sizes to accommodate varying dosages. They also hope to use the patch for hair loss treatment and as a topical anesthetic for babies getting inoculated.

In the meantime, they hope the lidocaine on its own will help doctors and other health care professionals deliver analgesics without discomfiting patients. Given their collection of flaws, such as patient incompliance, low efficiency, and variability in drug absorption, current patches still aren’t optimal.

According to the researchers, “in vitro permeation through rat skin demonstrated that [microneedle patch technology] delivered a significantly higher amount of lidocaine than a commercial patch and with a faster onset of drug permeation.”

Here’s to hoping humans and rats have one thing in common.