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Ga. Tech researchers create painless vaccine | News

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Ga. Tech researchers create painless vaccine

ATLANTA -- Imagine a vaccine that causes no pain, requires no refrigeration and can be easily disposed once given.

It's not too far in the future. Researchers at Georgia Tech and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are developing a device that will do just that. They created a patch of needles smaller than the height of a credit card, with the hope it will be able to deliver life-saving vaccines for illnesses like measles.

"We first got started with the general idea 20 years ago," Georgia Tech chemical and biomolecular engineering professor Mark Prausnitz said. "We have scaled down the idea of a needle and made it very small, made it microscopic small, less than a millimeter in length."

Think of it as a syringe and needle condensed into a Band-Aid. When it is applied and removed, it leaves behind a vaccine.

Prausnitz said the medication comes in a solid form that dissolves into the skin. They needles are so small, there's no pain.

"When you get a normal injection with a vaccine, it's almost all water that you're getting, and there's just a little bit of vaccine that's in there," Prausnitz said. "So we took the vaccine out, we don't need the water, and we incorporate that vaccine into the solid patch."

Prausnitz and his team are working with the CDC to create a patch that vaccinates against measles. Every day, 400 children across the world die from measles complications, according to CDC measles epidemiologist Jim Goodson. The patch could become a tool that leads to eradicating measles in the future.

"This new microneedles patch, not only is it smaller and easily administered, but it looks like it's gonna be thermostable and can be taken out of the cold chain, which for us is very important because a lot of our work to get vaccination coverage high is through mass vaccination campaigns, which means taking the vaccine out of the clinics and, potentially with this vaccine, going door to door."

The dissolving needles also eliminate the need to safely dispose of used needles.

Prausnitz said animal studies have already been completed. His team will next move on to human trials to make sure their findings remain true.

"I think within the next few years, there should be the first microneedle products available to patients," he said. "We can get the vaccine out to those people who need it and hopefully save lives."

Prausnitz said the patch could also be used for vaccinations for other illnesses like influenza, as well as for insulin for people with diabetes. Human trials for the influenza microneedle patch could begin as early as this summer.