Microneedles promise easier, more efficient vaccine delivery

Painless, band-aid like, patches could be the next vaccine delivery method
Published: Aug. 24, 2022 at 4:20 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 24, 2022 at 6:27 PM CDT
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - A new medical technology development called microneedles could change the way we receive vaccines.

The band-aid-like patch gets coated in the vaccine and is applied to the skin by pressing down firmly. It’s an “intradermal delivery method.” “Intra” means into, and “dermal” means the skin.

Texas Tech Professor, Harvinder Gill, said if we had these needles right now during the COVID-19 pandemic, we would not have had to stand in lines and wait for shots.

“So the reason intradermal injections are superior, as compared to, for example, subcutaneous or the muscles.” Gill said, “One reason is that it relies on the natural ability of the skin to be able to process the vaccine. And the reason is, if you think about the natural function of muscles, the muscles, the muscle cells are required for movement or lifting things.”

One of the major functions of the skin is defense. It has a rich supply of immune cells which can fight incoming infection. Your muscles have some amount of immune cells, but not nearly as many as your skin.

Gill said intradermal vaccine delivery is just as effective as penetrating the muscle while using 1/5 of the dosage. Your body will receive the same immune response and protection from a microneedle as you would from a normal needle.

“If you apply the 1/5 of the dose, administered intradermally to patients or people, you will be able to extend life or extend the usefulness of the vaccine because you can vaccinate now five times the people,” Gill said.

The microneedles are also more efficient. It takes little to no training to administer vaccines with microneedles.

“If you apply an intradermal injection, you need a very controlled technique to make sure that you are actually administering intradermally and not going deeper.” Gill said, “If you go deeper, then you are again going subcutaneous. So you have to be very careful to make sure you are shallow enough, and your technique is good.”

The technology has already been tested in humans with the flu vaccine.

Gill said the next step is for a company to take this treatment through the FDA approval process.

Right now, intradermal delivery is already being used with normal needles to treat monkeypox.

“The reason intradermal injections are superior, as compared to, for example, subcutaneous or the muscles,” Gill said. “One reason is that it relies on the natural ability of the skin to be able to process the vaccine.”

Applying vaccines with intradermal delivery allows your body to create a superior immune response.

Professor Gill, along with Research Assistant Professor, Akhilesh Shakya and Texas Tech students, Rohan Ingrole, Lazar Nesovic, and Ghanesh Kesav, are all working together to get a patent for the microneedles. They plan to use them for peanut allergies and a universal flu vaccine.