Many people suffer from life-threatening allergies that require an immediate dose of epinephrine to survive if they’re triggered. Those allergic reactions can be caused by very common scenarios, such as a bee sting or unknowingly consuming a peanut. For people with those allergies, the best defense is to carry around an epinephrine autoinjector like an EpiPen. Unfortunately, those are bulky and inconvenient to always have at the ready. That’s why a team of students from Rice University have designed a wearable epinephrine autoinjector called EpiWear.
Epinephrine autoinjectors — EpiPen being the most well-known brand name — are bulky because of the injection mechanism. The actual dose of epinephrine takes up a relatively small portion of the overall package. But that autoinjector mechanism is important, and allows untrained individuals to administer the drug. Patients can also easily self-administer the epinephrine as soon as they realize they’re having an allergic reaction, even as the symptoms begin to take effect. The students wanted to maintain that ease-of-use, but needed a way to make the package smaller and more convenient.
The solution they came up with was to divide an epinephrine autoinjector into three smaller parts. One contains the actual dose of epinephrine, one contains the spring mechanism of the autoinjector, and the last one contains the retractable syringe. Those three sections fold together to make the entire device small and easy to store. That can then be worn on a wrist strap so that people with allergies always have it available. For now, the students have only built a 3D-printed prototype of EpiWear. But more sophisticated manufacturing techniques could make the final product as compact as a smartwatch.