Skip to main content

Verily’s ‘exploding micro-needles’ are a fix for a problem that doesn’t exist

Verily’s ‘exploding micro-needles’ are a fix for a problem that doesn’t exist


There’s already a tiny gadget for drawing blood: it’s called a needle

Share this story

Photo by Cory Zapatka / The Verge

Somehow, Silicon Valley hasn’t learned from the train wreck that was Theranos. The latest rumors are that Verily, formerly Google Life Sciences, is developing a painless blood-collection gadget “using a system of exploding micro-needles and magnets,” CNBC’s Christina Farr reports. So Silicon Valley is back at trying to fix blood tests again — one of the few parts of health care that doesn’t need fixing.

The device is a prototype, Farr says, and the Verily team is still figuring out what to do with it. Mounted on a watch, the tiny needles could, say, be used to nonintrusively collect blood from patients in the hospital or monitor blood during clinical trials, according to Farr. (Verily declined to comment to Farr, and did not respond immediately to my email.)

The point is: needles are plenty small already

But there’s a secret that Silicon Valley apparently hasn’t clued into yet: there’s already a piece of technology that pierces the skin to collect blood. It’s called a needle, and it’s already very, very small. In fact, there are expressions about just how small needles are: needle in a haystack is one of them. Threading a needle. Camel through the eye of a needle, the internet tells me. The point is: needles are plenty small already. That’s why you can’t fit a camel through the eye of one.

Now, I’m not speaking for people who need to be continuously monitored, like diabetics. Finding a way to track glucose without puncturing the skin would be fantastic — if very difficult. But I assume micro-needles would still go under the skin? And I’m also not speaking for people with needle phobias, although somehow I doubt a “system of exploding micro-needles and magnets” is the best workaround.

I’m speaking for myself — someone who’s mostly healthy, but with enough issues that I visit the lab every few months to bleed. And a needle works just fine for me. In fact, there are only two things that irritate me when I have to get blood drawn, and neither is the size of the needle puncturing my vein. One is that I’ve heard it’s a bad idea to do a heavy arm workout right afterward. So just in case, I plan leg day, cardio, or rest (let’s be real — it’s usually rest) for the days I get blood drawn. Problem solved. The other is the clinic’s hours, which conveniently overlap with when I’m supposed to be working. A smaller needle won’t solve that: longer clinic hours would. (If I didn’t have good insurance, the cost would be another pain point.)

But Silicon Valley is infamous for its solutions in search of problems, and its fixation with blood tests is a *chef’s kiss* example. Take Theranos, which pledged to perform tons of tests on just a pinprick of blood. It didn’t work, and it wasted hundreds of millions of dollars. So, can we stop trying to fix blood draws already? Verily and venture capitalists, there are lots of causes that deserve your dough, but humans have had drawing blood down to a science for a while now. Maybe we could spend those funds on, say, keeping women from dying while producing the next generation or getting new antibiotics into the clinics to combat growing resistance.

I have lots of ideas, and your PR teams definitely have my email address.

Today’s Storystream

Feed refreshed 51 minutes ago The tablet didn’t call that play by itself

Emma Roth51 minutes ago
Missing classic Mario?

One fan, who goes by the name Metroid Mike 64 on Twitter, just built a full-on 2D Mario game inside Super Mario Maker 2 complete with 40 levels and eight worlds.

Looking at the gameplay shared on Twitter is enough to make me want to break out my SNES, or at least buy Super Mario Maker 2 so I can play this epic retro revamp.

External Link
Russell Brandom54 minutes ago
The US might still force TikTok into a data security deal with Oracle.

The New York Times says the White House is still working on TikTok’s Trump-era data security deal, which has been in a weird limbo for nearly two years now. The terms are basically the same: Oracle plays babysitter but the app doesn’t get banned. Maybe it will happen now, though?

Richard LawlerAn hour ago
Don’t miss this dive into Guillermo del Toro’s stop-motion Pinocchio flick.

Andrew Webster and Charles Pulliam-Moore covered Netflix’s Tudum reveals (yes, it’s going to keep using that brand name) over the weekend as the streamer showed off things that haven’t been canceled yet.

Beyond The Way of the Househusband season two news and timing information about two The Witcher projects, you should make time for this incredible behind-the-scenes video showing the process of making Pinocchio.

External Link
Russell Brandom4:29 PM UTC
Edward Snowden has been granted Russian citizenship.

The NSA whistleblower has been living in Russia for the 9 years — first as a refugee, then on a series of temporary residency permits. He applied for Russian citizenship in November 2020, but has said he won’t renounce his status as a U.S. citizen.

External Link
Emma Roth4:13 PM UTC
Netflix’s gaming bet gets even bigger.

Even though fewer than one percent of Netflix subscribers have tried its mobile games, Netflix just opened up another studio in Finland after acquiring the Helsinki-based Next Games earlier this year.

The former vice president of Zynga Games, Marko Lastikka, will serve as the studio director. His track record includes working on SimCity BuildIt for EA and FarmVille 3.

External Link
Andrew J. Hawkins3:37 PM UTC
Vietnam’s EV aspirant is giving big Potemkin village vibes

Idle equipment, absent workers, deserted villages, an empty swimming pool. VinFast is Vietnam’s answer to Tesla, with the goal of making 1 million EVs in the next 5-6 years to sell to customers US, Canada and Europe. With these lofty goals, the company invited a bunch of social media influencers, as well as some auto journalists, on a “a four-day, multicity extravaganza” that seemed more weird than convincing, according to Bloomberg.

James Vincent3:17 PM UTC
Today, 39 years ago, the world didn’t end.

And it’s thanks to one man: Stanislav Petrov, a USSR military officer who, on September 26th, 1983, took the decision not to launch a retaliatory nuclear attack against the US. Petrov correctly guessed that satellite readings showing inbound nukes were faulty, and so likely saved the world from nuclear war. As journalist Tom Chivers put it on Twitter, “Happy Stanislav Petrov Day to those who celebrate!” Read more about Petrov’s life here.

Soviet Colonel who prevented 1983 nuclear response
Photo by Scott Peterson/Getty Images
The Verge
James Vincent3:03 PM UTC
Deepfakes were made for Disney.

You might have seen the news this weekend that the voice of James Earl Jones is being cloned using AI so his performance as Darth Vader in Star Wars can live on forever.

Reading the story, it struck me how perfect deepfakes are for Disney — a company that profits from original characters, fans' nostalgia, and an uncanny ability to twist copyright law to its liking. And now, with deepfakes, Disney’s most iconic performances will live on forever, ensuring the magic never dies.

External Link
Elizabeth Lopatto2:41 PM UTC
Hurricane Fiona ratcheted up tensions about crypto bros in Puerto Rico.

“An official emergency has been declared, which means in the tax program, your physical presence time is suspended,” a crypto investor posted on TikTok. “So I am headed out of the island.” Perhaps predictably, locals are furious.

The Verge
Richard Lawler2:09 PM UTC
Teen hacking suspect linked to GTA 6 leak and Uber security breach charged in London.

City of London police tweeted Saturday that the teenager arrested on suspicion of hacking has been charged with “two counts of breach of bail conditions and two counts of computer misuse.”

They haven’t confirmed any connection with the GTA 6 leak or Uber hack, but the details line up with those incidents, as well as a suspect arrested this spring for the Lapsus$ breaches.

David Pierce12:54 PM UTC
Thousands and thousands of reasons people love Android.

“Android fans, what are the primary reasons why you will never ever switch to an iPhone?” That question led to almost 30,000 comments so far, and was for a while the most popular thing on Reddit. It’s a totally fascinating peek into the platform wars, and I’ve spent way too much time reading through it. I also laughed hard at “I can turn my text bubbles to any color I like.”

Thomas Ricker10:44 AM UTC
The Simpsons pays tribute to Chrome’s dino game.

Season 34 of The Simpsons kicked off on Sunday night with an opening credits “couch gag” based on the offline dino game from Google’s Chrome browser. Cactus, cactus, couch, d’oh! Perfect.