New technology could replace needles, meaning people will never need to be injected again

Dissolving ‘microneedles’ could make injections much safer and cheaper to provide in poor countries, as well as helping people who are afraid of injections

Scientists have made a dissolvable patch that can deliver vaccines — potentially eliminating the need for needles entirely.

The new vaccines are delivered simply by laying a tiny patch onto a person’s finger, before it dissolves into their skin. As such, it could vastly reduce the spread of diseases, by making the delivery of vaccines much more effective and cheap.

The new technology is made of a dissolvable material, meaning that when it is placed onto the skin it will dissolve straight away.

At the moment, most vaccines are injected into the skin or into muscles. But that requires specialist staff, is expensive, can easily go wrong and many are afraid of or dislike needles.

What’s more, scientists say in testing the vaccines are just as effective as those delivered by needles — and sometimes more. In the tests, which used three different strains of flu, none of the subjects had bad reactions.

“We were excited to see that our new microneedle patch is just as effective as the needle-delivered flu vaccines, and in some cases even more effective,” said Professor Nakagawa, one of the authors of the Osaka University study.

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Previous attempts to develop microneedles have relied on silicon or metal. But they weren’t safe, since they would sometimes break off in the skin and leave fragments behind — since the newly-developed ones are dissolvable, they are designed to safely break up in the skin and leave nothing behind.

The results of the trials are reported in a paper, ‘Clinical study and stability assessment of a novel transcutaneous influenza vaccination using a dissolving microneedle patch’, published this month in Biomaterials.

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