As our understanding of microbiological diseases evolves, the science and technology to combat such diseases becomes more targeted. This is also the case with vaccinations, which started as transplanting material from an infected vesicle to a healthy person to build their immunity against smallpox. Now, pharmaceutical companies routinely create safe vaccine formulas with purified antigens using various methods like live attenuation and subunit preparation.
The one year of the COVID-19 pandemic alone has shown the importance of vaccine technology its need for improvement. Unfortunately, many logistical issues hinder vaccine distribution that must be promptly addressed so the world can achieve an acceptable level of immunization against SARS-COV-2.
Recently, a team of researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Stanford University has collaborated to create a small piece of technology that may solve all our problems.
A 3D printed microneedle skin patch, coated with a vaccine formulation.
According to lead author Joseph M. DeSimone, who is professor of translational medicine and chemical engineering at Stanford University and professor emeritus at UNC-Chapel Hill, the vaccine patch has major advantages over the conventional delivery method:
“In developing this technology, we hope to set the foundation for even more rapid global development of vaccines, at lower doses, in a pain- and anxiety-free manner,”
The patch eliminates the need for medical professionals as people can apply it themselves. The personalized non-invasive approach may help reduce fear around vaccines, leading to a higher vaccine acceptance rate.
Furthermore, it does not need to be refrigerated which means that people in very remote areas can get vaccinated.
But these are not the only reasons why it may be such an innovation.
A Stronger Vaccine
When the team tested the patch against traditional syringe inoculation on mice models, they found that the patch achieved a better immunogenic response with higher levels of IgG and T cell activation.
While microneedle vaccines are not a new field of research, the technology generally is difficult to mass-produce. Previously, the best way to manufacture these was using a master mold which starts producing blunt needles after some use.
DeSimone and his team avoided this problem by using 3D printed needles, which come out perfect every time and also save the cost of production.
CARBON, a company founded by DeSimone produces the needles using a technique called continuous liquid interface production (CLIP) that he invented.
The authors published the study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Source: UNC News