Thanks to scientists at the Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University, getting your annual flu shot could be as easy as a trip to your mail box or local pharmacy. After that it would be as simple as putting on a band-aid.
The scientists involved in the study have developed a method of delivering the influenza vaccine via tiny microscopic needles imbedded into a patch. The needles are painless and would partially penetrate the skin to administer the vaccine.
The findings were published in the July 18 edition of Nature Medicine. The research was supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
The study also revealed that the patch offers better protection than the conventional method using a syringe.
“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 at Georgia Tech School of Chemical and Biomoleculor Engineering, and lead author of the study.
The vaccine is a dry formula (freeze dried) which makes it better for storage and distribution. Once the patch is pressed onto the skin the microneedles dissolve into the bodily fluids and all that is left is the water-soluble backing that can be safely disposed of.
The patch would be easy to self-administer and has the potential to vaccinate people on a large scale. It could be particularly beneficial in the third world where hypodermic needles are often re-used, spreading diseases such as Hepatitis B and HIV.
“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.
The microneedles are made from a combination of polymer material and poly-vinyl pyrrolidone which is safe for human use. The freeze-dried vaccine formula is then mixed with the vinyl pyrrolidone monomer and placed into molds to make the microneedles and polymerized at room temperature with ultra-violet light.