Microneedle Vaccine Patches Can Now Be 3D Printed!

Microneedle Vaccine Patches Can Now Be 3D Printed!
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Since many vaccinations must be kept in cold storage, it can be challenging to transfer them to distant locations without the requisite infrastructure.

This makes getting vaccines to those who need them the most all throughout the world really tricky.

An answer to this problem may have been found by renowned Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) experts.

Researchers have suggested a portable 3D vaccine printer that can be scaled up to create hundreds of vaccine doses every day and make them readily accessible.

In a new study published in the Nature Biotechnology journal, the authors suggested that this type of printer can be used everywhere since it’s small enough to fit a tabletop.

MIT research scientist Ana Jaklenec stated that “We may someday have on demand vaccine production. If, for instance, there was an Ebola outbreak in a certain region, one may ship a few of these printers there and vaccinate people in that location.”

In order for the vaccine to disintegrate without the need for a conventional injection, the printer creates patches with hundreds of tiny needles packed with the vaccine.

The printed vaccination patches can be kept at room temperature for months after printing.

Furthermore, the needle points of the patch disintegrate under the skin after being placed on the skin, releasing the vaccination.

One of the researchers, John Daristotle, noted that “When Covid started, concerns about vaccine stability and access encouraged us to try to incorporate RNA vaccines into microneedle patches.”

A vacuum chamber under the mold pulls the ink down to the bottom, ensuring that ink reaches the needles’ tips.

A robotic arm inside the printer injects ink into microneedle molds.

The molds only need a day or two to dry after getting filled. The present prototype can create a hundred patches in under 48 hours.

The researchers believe that future versions may be built to have a larger capacity.

The scientists initially developed an ink containing RNA that encodes luciferase, a fluorescent protein, to assess the vaccinations’ long-term durability. After being kept at either 4 degrees Celsius or 25 degrees Celsius for up to 6 months, they placed the resultant microneedle patches on mice.

Additionally, they kept a batch for a whole month at 37 degrees Celsius.

When applied to mice under any of these storage conditions, the patches produced a potent fluorescent reaction.

In contrast, the fluorescent response of the RNA encoding for the fluorescent protein decreased over time when kept at room temperature.

After giving mice two doses of the Covid-19 microneedle vaccine, spaced 4 weeks apart, the team measured the mice’s immune reaction to the virus.

Mice that received the microneedle patch vaccination responded similarly to mice that received the conventional injection of the RNA vaccine.

Prof. Joseph DeSimone, who was not directly involved in the research, says that “This work is particularly exciting since it realizes the ability to just produce vaccines on demand. With the ability to scale up vaccine manufacturing and the improved stability at higher temperatures, mobile vaccine printers can facilitate more widespread access to RNA vaccines.”

Jaklenec concluded that “While this study focused on Covid RNA vaccines, the researchers plan to adapt the whole process to produce other sorts of vaccines, including made from protein or inactivated viruses. The ink was key in stabilizing mRNA vaccines, but it  can contain various vaccines or even drugs, allowing for flexibility and modularity in what can be delivered by using this microneedle platform.”


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Katherine is just getting her start as a journalist. She attended a technical school while still in high school where she learned a variety of skills, from photography to nutrition. Her enthusiasm for both natural and human sciences is real so she particularly enjoys covering topics on medicine and the environment.

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