Story at a glance

  • Researchers at Stanford University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill developed a microneedle vaccine patch.
  • The patch is 3D printed and when used to administer a vaccine substance can provide greater protection than a traditional needle shot.
  • The 3D-printed vaccine patch would be less invasive, wouldn’t require special storage and could be self-administered.

Scientists have created a 3D-printed vaccine patch that requires no needle, can be self-administered and has the potential to be used for a variety of vaccinations.

Scientists at Stanford University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) developed a new type of vaccine technology that uses 3D-printed microneedles on a polymer patch barely long enough to reach the surface of the skin to deliver a vaccine. 

According to a press release by UNC, the vaccine patch could set the course for a new way to deliver vaccines that’s painless and less invasive than a traditional needle, doesn’t require special storage and can be self-administered.

“In developing this technology, we hope to set the foundation for even more rapid global development of vaccines, at lower doses, in a pain- and anxiety-free manner,” said Joseph M. DeSimone, professor of translational medicine at Stanford University. 


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The scientists’ results showed when their 3D-printed vaccine patch was used to administer a vaccine substance, it generated a significant T-cell and antigen-specific antibody response that was 50 times greater than a short needle that penetrates under the skin. 

Through 3D printing, scientists could create microneedle vaccine patches for the flu, measles, hepatitis or even COVID-19.

There can be a lot of barriers when administering traditional needle vaccines, requiring people to visit a clinic or hospital and health care providers needing a special refrigerator or freezer to store vaccines. But with vaccine patches, researchers argue they can be shipped worldwide without special handling required and people can apply the patches themselves, which could also lead to higher vaccination rates.

Getting to this point has been challenging, with researchers pointing out that historically it’s been hard to adapt microneedles to different types of vaccines. The master template used to make each vaccine’s mold has struggled to maintain the right amount of sharpness during the replication process.

However, the new development in 3D-printed vaccines by researchers at Stanford and UNC could shift the potential for microneedles, as they developed a method to increase the surface area of microneedles that also increased the amount of vaccine it could hold.

“Our approach allows us to directly 3D print the microneedles which gives us lots of design latitude for making the best microneedles from a performance and cost point-of-view,” said Shaomin Tian, researcher at the department of microbiology and immunology at the UNC school of medicine.


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Published on Dec 06, 2021