Stanford and North Carolina University (UNC) scientists have developed a new 3D printed microneedle vaccine patch that’s more effective and less invasive than a regular needle jab.
According to its creators, the device’s microneedles are lined up on a polymer patch and they are barely long enough to reach the skin to deliver vaccine.
The trick lies in applying the vaccine patch directly to the skin, which is full of immune cells that vaccines target.
Results from the study suggest the immune response from the vaccine patch was 10 times greater than a vaccine delivered into an arm muscle with a needle jab.
“In developing this technology, we hope to set the foundation for even more rapid global development of vaccines, at lower doses, in a pain- and anxiety-free manner,” says lead author and Stanford University professor Joseph M. DeSimone.
According to DeSimone, who is also a professor emeritus at UNC-Chapel Hill, the ease and effectiveness of a vaccine patch like the one developed by them, sets the course for a new way to deliver vaccines that are painless and less invasive than a shot with a needle. What’s more, they can be self-administered too.
The vaccine patch has so far generated a significant T-cell and antigen-specific antibody response that is 50 times greater than a subcutaneous injection delivered under the skin
That heightened immune response could lead to dose sparing, with a microneedle vaccine patch using a smaller dose to generate a similar immune response as a vaccine delivered with a needle and syringe.
And thanks to 3D printing, the microneedles can be easily customized to develop various vaccine patches for flu, measles, hepatitis or COVID-19 vaccines, says DeSimone.
Most microneedle vaccines are fabricated with master templates to make molds. However, the molding of microneedles is not very versatile, and drawbacks include reduced needle sharpness during replication.
“Our approach allows us to directly 3D print the microneedles, which gives us lots of design latitude for making the best microneedles from a performance and cost point-of-view,” says study co-author Shaomin Tian.
The microneedle patches were 3D printed at Carolina using a CLIP prototype 3D printer that DeSimone invented and is being produced by CARBON, a Silicon Valley company he co-founded.
Image and content: University of North Carolina