Novel mobile printer creates dissolvable vaccine patches on demand

Researchers have developed a mobile printer that creates temperature-stable, dissolvable vaccine patches on demand. The novel device not only eliminates the need for vaccine injections, but would also allow vaccines to be delivered to remote areas.

Vaccines help our bodies make protective antibodies, proteins that fight off infection. Vaccination protects against certain diseases and reduces the likelihood that we will transmit them to others.

But vaccines, including mRNA vaccines, are fragile biological substances. If exposed to temperatures outside of the recommended storage range – between 35°F/2°C and 46°F/8°C – they may lose their effectiveness or even be destroyed. This means it can be difficult to get them to remote areas that don’t have the necessary cold storage, such as the United States. B. in low- and middle-income countries.

MIT researchers may have developed the solution: a mobile printer that uses novel dissolvable microneedle patches (MNPs) to deliver vaccines directly into the skin.

Using a high-precision robotic dispenser and microneedle molds, the researchers created thumbnail-sized patches containing hundreds of microneedles small, sharp and accurate enough to deliver vaccines to humans. They incorporated a stabilizing soluble polymer into a bio-ink composed of RNA vaccine molecules encapsulated in lipid nanoparticles (LNP).

Once the patches are printed, a robotic arm injects the bio-ink into the microneedle molds, and a vacuum pulls the ink down to ensure it’s in the tip of the needle. When the patch is applied, the microneedle tips dissolve under the skin, releasing the vaccine without the need for a traditional intramuscular injection. And there is no need to throw away dangerous and polluting syringes and needles.

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The researchers found that using the soluble polymer resulted in the LNP-encapsulated mRNA being stable at room temperature for at least six months. Testing of their temperature-stable, soluble COVID-19 RNA vaccine in mice resulted in an immune response comparable to that of injected RNA vaccines.

The study’s findings mean that manufacturing vaccines where and when they’re needed could one day be a reality, the researchers say.

“We could one day have on-demand vaccine production,” said Ana Jaklenec, corresponding author of the study. “For example, if there was an Ebola outbreak in a certain region, you could send some of these printers there and vaccinate people there.”

The printer can fit on a tabletop and be scaled to produce hundreds of vaccines a day, the researchers say. While this study used a COVID-19 vaccine, researchers plan to expand use of the device to other vaccines and other drugs.

“The ink composition was key to stabilizing mRNA vaccines, but the ink can contain different types of vaccines or even drugs, allowing for flexibility and modularity in deploying this microneedle platform,” Jaklenec said.

The study was published in the journal Nature Biotechnology.

Source: MIT