"Unlike conventional hypodermic injections, microneedles are prepared in a patch for simple administration, possibly by patients themselves, and inserted painlessly onto the skin without specialized training," says Mark Prausnitz, PhD, professor in the Georgia Tech School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and co-senior author. "These micron-scale needles can be mass produced using low-cost methods for distribution to doctors' office, pharmacies and, possibly, people's homes."
Other advantages of the microneedle patches could include more convenient storage, easier transportation and lower dosage requirements. Lower doses could be particularly important because flu vaccine production capacity sometimes is limited for seasonal vaccine, and a future influenza pandemic would require much greater production of vaccine.
Replacing a hypodermic needle with a microneedle patch also could significantly impact the way other vaccines are delivered, and could be particularly beneficial in developing countries. A microneedle patch could fit inside an envelope for delivery by the postal service and would occupy much less storage space. Patches also would increase vaccine safety by reducing the dangers of accidental or intentional hypodermic needle re-use.
The project team plans future immunization studies in other animal models, including guinea pigs or ferrets, before initiating studies in humans. Also, more studies are needed to determine the minimum vaccine dose needed for full protection.
The Emory and Georgia Tech research team began developing the new microneedle vaccine patch technology in 2007 using grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
|Contact: Ashante Dobbs|