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Plot element from the Star Trek franchise
First appearanceStar Trek: The Original Series
Created byGene Roddenberry
GenreScience fiction
In-story information
TypeMedical tool
FunctionUsed to inject medication into a patient's body

A hypospray is a fictional version of a jet injector. Sometimes it is used as a verb, "to hypospray", meaning "to use a hypospray on (someone/something)".

The concept of the hypospray was developed when producers on the original Star Trek series discovered that NBC's broadcast standards and practices prohibited the use of hypodermic syringes to inject medications; the needleless hypospray sidestepped this issue.[1] The prop used in the original series appeared to be a modified fuel injector for a large automotive diesel engine, similar to the engines which jet injectors were derived from.[2]

In the Star Trek universe[edit]

In the Star Trek universe, the hypospray was developed by the mid-22nd century, as it is featured in Star Trek: Enterprise. Many people, such as Dr. Crusher in Star Trek: The Next Generation, and The Doctor in Star Trek: Voyager, are seen to use it.

The real-life jet injector is usually applied at the top of the arm, but the fictional hypospray is sometimes applied on the neck. Presumably when used in the neck it delivers the medication intravenously or intra-arterially and when used on the arm it delivers intramuscularly. The hypospray can also be applied through clothing.

The hypospray is extremely versatile as the medicine vials can be quickly swapped out from the bottom of the hypospray. As the hypospray is bloodless, it is not contaminated by use. This allows it to be used on many people until the supply of medicine runs out.

Real-world timeline[edit]

See also Jet injector#History.
  • 19th century: Workmen in France had accidental jet injections with high-powered grease guns[3]
  • 1937 or earlier: Jet-injecting was known of as a type of workshop accident with diesel engines' fuel injectors.
  • 1947: First known use of the word "hypospray" for a real jet injector.[4]
  • 23 November 1947: "The Comic Strip Killer" episode of the radio show The Shadow aired. In it, a hypospray is mentioned, as working "on the basis of a high-pressure air gun. You hold it against the skin and it blasts fluid, painlessly, through the pores. The patient doesn't even feel the injection." The characters in the story were told that it was such a new device that the "first real publicity about it is in this week's Life Magazine".
  • 1956: Jack Vance's novel To Live Forever was published: in it, devices called hyposprays are used as drug injection devices.[5]
  • 1957: Isaac Asimov's novel The Naked Sun mentions a "high-pressure needle jet" as an alternative to hypodermic needles.
  • 1960: A real working medical jet-injector was first patented - MadaJet.[6]
  • 1965: A "hypospray" was mentioned in The Man From U.N.C.L.E. universe book, The Dagger Affair[7]
  • 1966: Star Trek: The Original Series started airing, but real jet-injectors were not yet in common use.
  • 18 March 1967: The Mission: Impossible Season 1 Episode 24 ("The Train") aired, mentioning the hypospray. In it, Rollin Hand (Martin Landau) tells Dr. Selby (William Schallert) to "Get the hyposprays ready." The doctor mentions "the spray will go right through his clothing and penetrate the skin."
  • 2 February 2004: The television show Star Trek: Enterprise Episode 14 of Season 3 ("Stratagem") aired. It used an almost identical ploy as that used in the Mission: Impossible episode 'The Train' to trick the antagonist of the episode.

In the real world[edit]

For examples of a real jet injector being called a hypospray: see.[8][9][10]

Scientists at MIT developed a needle-free injection system in 2012.[11]

High pressure air injectors have been used by the military as a common initial entry vaccination method since at least the mid 1980s. They were linked to a bulk drug supply and a sterilized high pressure air supply (air compressor). Far from painless, they pushed in a portion of skin similar to the action of a needle, instead of the fiction of seeping slowly through the pores. Unlike a needle, the hole did not close itself, and usually left a small bleeding wound.

After reducing the size of the injector from that of a refrigerator to the size of an electric razor, MIT-based startup Portal Instruments received funding from Japanese pharmaceutical company Takeda in 2017 to develop and commercialize a needle-free hand-held injection device called PRIME. Loaded with a single-use disposable vessel, this device injects a hair thin stream at about 200 meters per second to penetrate skin and tissue with reportedly less pain than needles.[12]

  • Research team discovers applications of a liquid salt compound, choline and geranate, capable of fostering antisepic absorption through the skin in as little as 2 hours. While limited in scope and not instantaneous as the hyposprays of Trek, future application and study may increase scope and speed. See:[13]


  1. ^ Whitfield SE, Roddenberry G (1991) [1969]. The Making of Star Trek. Titan Books. ISBN 1-85286-363-3.
  2. ^ "Hypospray". American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy. 8 (3): 182–184. 1 June 1951. doi:10.1093/ajhp/8.3.182. ISSN 1079-2082.
  3. ^ "How to start an IV without pain". Healthfreelancing.com. Archived from the original on 12 November 2007. Retrieved 5 April 2011.
  4. ^ Hingson RA, Hughes JG (1947). "Clinical studies with jet injection; a new method of drug administration". Current Researches in Anesthesia & Analgesia. 26 (6): 221–30. PMID 18917536.
  5. ^ Vance J (1956). To Live Forever. Ballantine Books.
  6. ^ "MadaJet". Mada Medical.
  7. ^ McDaniel D (1965). The Dagger Affair. Ace Books. p. 24.
  8. ^ Clarke AK, Woodland J (February 1975). "Comparison of two steroid preparations used to treat tennis elbow, using the hypospray". Rheumatology and Rehabilitation. 14 (1): 47–9. doi:10.1093/rheumatology/14.1.47. PMID 1091959.
  9. ^ Hughes GR (June 1969). "The use of the hypospray in the treatment of minor orthopaedic conditions". Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine. 62 (6): 577. doi:10.1177/003591576906200619. PMC 1811070. PMID 5802730.
  10. ^ Baum J, Ziff M (March 1967). "Use of the hypospray jet injector for intra-articular injection". Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases. 26 (2): 143–5. doi:10.1136/ard.26.2.143. PMC 1031030. PMID 6023696.
  11. ^ Burnham T (25 May 2012). "MIT Builds A Needle-Free Drug Injector". NPR.
  12. ^ Matheson R. "Startup's needle-free drug injector gets commercialization deal". MIT News Office. Retrieved 8 January 2018.
  13. ^ Greene JR, Merrett KL, Heyert AJ, Simmons LF, Migliori CM, Vogt KC, et al. (17 September 2019). "Scope and efficacy of the broad-spectrum topical antiseptic choline geranate". PLOS ONE. 14 (9): e0222211. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0222211. PMC 6748422. PMID 31527873.

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Journal articles[edit]