Microneedles could simplify vaccine delivery

Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers from Emory University, have developed a new method of vaccine delivery that requires a simple patch and could potentially be done at home.

Their research on microneedles, released in the July 18 edition of Nature Medicine, would mark the first time a vaccine could be easily self-administered and leave no dangerous waste behind. According to the Associated Press, the needles are so small that they cause no pain and would actually dissolve after barely penetrating the skin.

“The goal has been a means to administer the vaccine that is patient friendly,” Mark Prausnitz, head of the project,told the Associated Press.

The patch has been successfully tested in mice and, with adequate funding, could be in use within five years. Prausnitz believes that the research, partially supported by the National Institutes of Health, could go a long way towards making annual influenza shots more palatable to those that find them a painful inconvenience. They could receive them in the mail or at a local pharmacy instead of having to go see a doctor, the AP reports.

In the mice study, the patch was placed on the skin for between five and fifteen minutes, though it could be left on longer with no damage, administering the appropriate dosage, and then removed. The needles are 650 microns - three-hundredths of an inch - long, with 100 used on a patch.

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National Institutes of Health

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