3D Printed Vaccine Patch: A Better Way to Boost Immunity Without Needle Jab

3D Printed Vaccine Patch
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It’s been over a year since the coronavirus pandemic, and researchers worldwide are still busy working to develop novel medical interventions to fight the virus. From testing various pills and finally developing vaccines, the medical and scientific worlds worked frantically to prevent the spread of the infectious virus and prevent the loss of millions of lives. Various drug manufacturers fast-tracked the development, testing, and mass production of effective vaccines in different formulations, with varying storage requirements. These vaccines are all injectables. 

However, many people were afraid of needles and compounded by their fear of the possible side effects; they refused to get vaccinated. 

A new form of medical intervention 

Through the collaboration of scientists from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Stanford University, they developed a vaccine patch they created through 3D printing. According to the developers, the patch can provide more significant viral infection than a traditional vaccine jab. 

The scientists explained that there are vast groups of immune cells on the skin. Thus, their patch can improve the immune response when applied directly to a person’s skin. The scientists, composed of chemical engineers and microbiologists, are innovating the existing vaccines against Covid-19 from Moderna and Pfizer. 

The polymer patch has rows of 3D-printed microneedles in just the right length to reach the skin. Joseph M. DeSimone, the lead study author and professor emeritus at UNC-Chapel Hill and professor of translational medicine and chemical engineering at Stanford University, said they developed the technology to lay the foundation for the more rapid development of vaccines worldwide. In addition, they aim to deliver the vaccine at lower doses to people while preventing them from experiencing anxiety and pain. 

new form of medical intervention
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Better response and results

Their tests show that the novel vaccine patch with microneedles provides higher protection than a typical vaccine delivered by syringe. 

According to the scientists, the immune response was ten times greater compared to vaccines delivered into the arm muscle with a needle. With the patch, which can be self-administered, the delivery of the vaccine is less invasive and painless.

Their study results reveal that the vaccine patch produced a significant T-cell and antigen-specific antibody response 50 times higher than vaccines injected under the skin. 

With the enhanced immune response when using the microneedle vaccine patch, the scientists believe that this could open the way for smaller doses.

It’s been several decades since the study of microneedle patches started, but the new method, using 3D printing, will help customize the technology. In addition, it could lead to the development of other vaccine patches for illnesses such as hepatitis, measles, and flu.

3D printing allowed the scientists to customize the microneedles, giving them the correct sharpness to penetrate the skin.

Advantages of the microneedle vaccine patch

There are various requirements when using the Covid-19 vaccine. First, a person who wishes to get vaccinated has to go to a hospital or clinic. Second, the vaccine is either stored in a freezer or refrigerator. Third, the vaccine administration is via a syringe filled with the recommended dosage, and the vaccine must be injected into the arm by a trained professional.

With the microneedle vaccine patch, the person needing vaccination can apply the patch on their own. The microneedles are coated with the vaccine and will dissolve into the skin. Thus, the shipment of the vaccine patch will not require any special handling. With the ease of using the vaccine patch, the scientists foresee that the vaccination rate will increase.

The scientists will continue testing the vaccine patch using different Covid-19 vaccines. Hopefully, the product will be commercially available soon.