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Vaccine Patch May Replace Needles

Vaccine Patch May Replace Needles

Will vaccine patches bring an end to painful immunization injections?

A new vaccine patch jammed with tiny microneedles could replace the need for painful immunization injections and boost the effectiveness of immunization against disease like flu.

vaccine patch with microneedles 300x392 Vaccine Patch May Replace Needles

The Microneedles Of New Vaccine Patch

Each vaccine patch contains 100 “microneedles” which are just 0.65mm in length. The microneedles, made from poly-vinyl pyrrolidone – a polymer material that has been shown to be safe for use in the body – are designed to penetrate the outer layers of skin then dissolve on contact.

The study conducted by researchers from Emory University and the Georgia Institute of Technology, is believed to be the first to look at the immunization benefits of dissolving microneedles.

To test the technology, the researchers filled the microneedles with an influenza virus. One group of mice received the influenza vaccine using traditional hypodermic needles and another group vaccinated with the patch. Patches that had no vaccine on them were also applied to a ‘control’ group of mice.

Not only did the patches sufficiently administer the vaccine, researchers found that three months down the line, mice that had been given the patches appeared to have a more effective immune response than mice vaccinated with traditional hypodermic needles.

Richard Compans, professor of microbiology and immunology at Emory University School of Medicine said:

“The skin is a particularly attractive site for immunization because it contains an abundance of the types of cells that are important in generating immuneresponses to vaccines,”

If proven to be effective in further trials, the patch could mean an end to the need for medical training to deliver vaccines and turn vaccination into a painless procedure that people could do themselves.

It would also simplify large-scale vaccination during a pandemic, the researchers said. Mark Prausnitz, a professor in the Georgia Tech School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering said:

“In this study, we have shown that a dissolving microneedle patch can vaccinate against influenza at least as well, and probably better than, a traditional hypodermic needle,”

Sean Sullivan, the study lead from Georgia Tech said:

“We envision people getting the patch in the mail or at a pharmacy and then self-administering it at home,”

“Because the microneedles on the patch dissolve away into the skin, there would be no dangerous sharp needles left over.”

Although more clinical trials are need before the vaccine patch could be made widely available, it is hoped the technology will be useful for other immunizations and would not cost any more than using a needle.

Co-author, Professor Richard Compans from Emory University Medical School, said the vaccine does not have to penetrate deeply because there are immune cells present just below the surface of the skin.

“We hope there could be some studies in humans within the next couple of years,” he said.

Details of the dissolving microneedle patches and immunization benefits observed in experimental mice were reported July 18th in the advance online publication of the journal Nature Medicine.

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