An array of 36 dissolving microneedles is shown here on a fingertip for size comparison.
A new vaccine-delivery patch based on hundreds of microscopic needles that dissolve into the skin could allow persons without medical training to painlessly administer vaccines — while providing improved immunization against diseases such as influenza.
Patches containing micron-scale needles that carry vaccine with them as they dissolve into the skin could simplify immunization programs by eliminating the use of hypodermic needles — and their “sharps” disposal and re-use concerns. Applied easily to the skin, the microneedle patches could allow self-administration of vaccine during pandemics and simplify large-scale immunization programs in developing nations.
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. Conducted by researchers from Emory University and the Georgia Institute of Technology, the study is believed to be the first to evaluate the immunization benefits of dissolving microneedles. The research was supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
“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,” said Mark Prausnitz, a professor in the Georgia Tech School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.
Just 650 microns in length and assembled into an array of 100 needles for the mouse study, the dissolving microneedles penetrate the outer layers of skin. Beyond their other advantages, the dissolving microneedles appear to provide improved immunity to influenza when compared to vaccination with hypodermic needles.
“The skin is a particularly attractive site for immunization because it contains an abundance of the types of cells that are important in generating immune responses to vaccines,” said Richard Compans, professor of microbiology and immunology at Emory University School of Medicine.
In the study, one group of mice received the influenza vaccine using traditional hypodermic needles injecting into muscle; another group received the vaccine through dissolving microneedles applied to the skin, while a control group had microneedle patches containing no vaccine applied to their skin. When infected with influenza virus 30 days later, both groups that had received the vaccine remained healthy while mice in the control group contracted the disease and died.
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