Published Wednesday, 08 May 2013
The microneedle patch is smaller than a stamp. (© UTV)
Microneedles are smaller than a postage stamp and their surface is covered with almost invisible pinpoints.
The team behind developing the patches say they could be available to patients in three to five years.
Dr Ryan Donnelly, from the Queen's School of Pharmacy, said the little needles on the patch are less than 0.5mm in height.
"They are made out of a special type of plastic material that's hard when it's dry, and easily penetrates the outermost layer of our skin, but once in the skin it rapidly takes up fluid from the viable skin and swells.
"And what this allows us to do is either deliver medicines across the skin for therapeutic purposes, or extra fluid for monitoring purposes."
Premature babies will benefit the most from the new method.
Experts say it could revolutionise their treatment.
Little Ethan McGarrity was born premature at 24 weeks in October 2011, with a 50% chance of survival.
He weighed just 1lb 2oz and spent three months in the neonatal unit at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children, Belfast.
During his time there, the tiny tot had over 100 injections.
Ethan's dad Kevin McGarrity told UTV that nothing had prepared him for how horrific the process was, watching on as his tiny son battled for his life.
"I heard about this new technology and if that helps him get a lot less needles, that would be fantastic.
"The babies just look like they're in such pain as it is, and then when they get a needle as well, and the little cries, you want to take the needle for them."
But soon Ethan and babies like him may not have to endure the trauma.
David Sweet, the Royal's consultant neonatologist, said that only a very tiny amount of fluid is collected by the microneedles, which could potentially mean less blood transfusions for premature babies.
It would avoid a lot of the pain caused when needles are used to get samples, he added.
"With the best will in the world, it's going to be a lot easier if we don't have to stick a needle in their skin."
© UTV News