July 19th, 2010
05:46 PM ET

Micro-needles make vaccine dissolve into skin

A new kind of patch that dissolves into the skin could eliminate the need for syringes and more effectively deliver the immunization, according to a study released this week.

The patch, described in the journal Nature Medicine, contains tiny micro needles that dissolve into the skin.  Unlike syringes, this would eliminate concerns about re-use of needles, safe disposal of sharp objects and would allow for simple self-administration of vaccines.

The research conducted at Emory University and the Georgia Institute of Technology, was supported by the National Institutes of Health.

The patch which contains 100 small micro needles are painlessly pressed against the skin, which then penetrate the outer layers and dissolve.  It would be left on the skin for 10 minutes.

Researchers tested the patches on mice. One group of mice received the flu vaccine through hypodermic needles injections, another group received the vaccine patch applied to the skin and the last group received patches containing no vaccine. When all groups were infected with the flu, both vaccinated groups remained healthy while the mice in the unvaccinated group died.

Three months later, the researchers again exposed the two living groups to the flu virus. The mice who were vaccinated with the patches were better able to clear the virus from their lungs than their counterparts that were injected with hypodermic needles, according to the study.

"We have the most experience with the  flu vaccine," said Mark Prausnitz, a professor in the Georgia Tech School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. "The approach seems to work also with insulin."

Prausnitz said he doesn't think the patches will replace needles, because the vaccination system is already established.  He said the patch is a good option for vaccinations that aren't part of the routine childhood immunizations.

"Things like a seasonal flu shot every year -  people don’t plan for it," he said.  "It’s special, inconvenient and in also situations - those are situations that are particularly compelling for its use."

The next phase in the research would be to conduct clinical studies on humans to assess safety and effectiveness.  Prausnitz said it could be at least five years before the vaccine patch could be seen in doctor's offices.

soundoff (12 Responses)
  1. nggada benjamin

    The beauty of medicine is that we keep improving everyday. i believe it will be more useful in developing countries where we are battling with fake drugs, syringe and needles, safe disposal of shape and manpower.

    July 19, 2010 at 18:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. AS

    A true miracle for those of us who have needle-phobia!!!!

    July 19, 2010 at 22:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. zaccman james

    Iam happy to hear in my country Nigeria we been battling fake needle this good news i hope is too expensive

    July 20, 2010 at 10:54 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Waterfalls

      What is a fake needle? I hope things get better in your country– it is sad when you can't get safe medical care.

      July 20, 2010 at 11:56 | Report abuse |
  4. zaccman james

    pleaze i mean i hope not too expensive

    July 20, 2010 at 11:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Waterfalls

    I would love to get a "vaccine in a patch" instead of via a big needle in the arm. Nice work!

    July 20, 2010 at 11:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. PiercedPsycho

    You would think that someone who can get a tattoo could handle a shot, but no....I hope they don't limit this to the flu shot, I really don't.

    July 20, 2010 at 16:30 | Report abuse | Reply
    • CitizenX

      No one brags about a flu shot. It isn't "badass". There's no deep, personal symbolism.

      When the reward is great, people will go to bear great trials. Something taken so for granted as an annual flu vaccination, no one will make a fuss or ask for the big painful needle.

      Personally, I think this is cool. I didn't expect the dissolving part, but I did once consider small needles in a patch, like a jellyfish for a corpsman. This is way more practical than syringes. Imagine in 5+ years, maybe when your kid needs a shot (so hoping the slang for these patches becomes "a stick"), you just show them a poster of that giant metal needle and the little rugrats should take that pleasant patch in terror of the poster you distracted them with while the nurse administers the flu patch.

      October 27, 2010 at 19:37 | Report abuse |
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