Health in the future: mail-order dissolvable vaccine patches

A collaborative research study by Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University in Atlanta details a new way to deliver painless effective vaccines in the July 18 online edition of the journal
Nature Medicine.

Mark Prausnitz, a professor at the Georgia Tech School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, said in a Georgia Tech announcement on July 18, "we have shown that a dissolving microneedle patch can vaccinate against influenza at least as well, and probably better than, a traditional hypodermic needle."

The patch is one-fourth the size of a US penny with an array of dissolving "micron-scale needles carrying a vaccine" that can easily be self-administered.

"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," added Richard Compans, professor of microbiology and immunology at Emory University School of Medicine.

"Another advantage of these microneedles is that the vaccine is present as a dry formulation, which will enhance its stability during distribution and storage," said Ioanna Skountzou, an Emory University assistant professor.

The study's lead author, Sean Sullivan, explained, "we envision people getting the patch in the mail or at a pharmacy and then self-administering it at home, because the microneedles on the patch dissolve away into the skin, there would be no dangerous sharp needles left over."

The future of such a vaccine could impact developing nations, school programs and assisted living communities in avoiding a number of public health concerns.

Perhaps also possible in the future is a painfree ‘universal' flu vaccine if these researchers team up with the scientists at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), working on a new all-in-one two shot could protect against all strains of influenza.

Full study, "Dissolving polymer microneedle patches for influenza vaccination": http://www.nature.com/nm/journal/vaop/ncurrent/abs/nm.2182.html
Full study, "Induction of Broadly Neutralizing H1N1 Influenza Antibodies by Vaccination": http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/science.1192517

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