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A $1 Patch Could Take the Pain Out of Vaccines

A $1 Patch Could Take the Pain Out of Vaccines

Vaccines are a medical wonder, but at the moment they are a pain: unpleasant for the recipient and difficult and costly to transport and store.

In answer to this, scientists have now created a potentially revolutionary vaccine patch that is painless and costs just $1 to produce.

Unveiled to audiences at a TEDGlobal event in Edinburgh, UK, by Australian inventor Professor Mark Kendall, the Nanopatch works by using thousands of tiny projections that only perforate the skin.

Currently, a syringe is used to puncture the skin to deliver the vaccine into muscle tissue, but this has long been known to be inefficient.

Research has shown that the skin has an abundance of immune cells that could make it the “vaccine sweet spot,” as Kendall calls it, and much better suited for vaccine uptake than muscle, which has relatively little immunity-spreading ability.

Due to the better uptake, the Nanopatch therefore requires less vaccine to be used than the traditional syringe-to-muscle delivery method. In turn, this will likely serve to drive down costs.

“A vaccine that had cost $10 can be brought down to just 10 cents,” Kendall told the BBC.

Cost reduction is further helped by the fact that the Nanopatch uses a dry vaccine, so there is no longer a need for cumbersome or expensive liquid storage or strict temperature regulation.

Kendall is quoted as saying that, unlike liquid vaccines, the patch will remain usable even if kept for a year at a temperature of 23 degrees Celsius/73 degrees Fahrenheit.

As a result, this will make transportation of vaccines much easier, and it is this quality when teamed with a lower cost that could serve to be of most benefit in the developing world.

It isn’t the first time the patch idea has been looked at. Researchers from Emory University and the Georgia Institute of Technology published encouraging findings in 2010 from tests with a patch that used micro-needles, similar to but distinct from the Nanopatch.

What does the medical community make of this new breakthrough Nanopatch? A representative for the British Society for Immunology is quoted as giving this a positive, if qualified, welcome. ”This approach holds out hope for easy and large-scale vaccination, as it targets a type of immune cell, called the Langerhans cell, that is abundant in the skin,” said Dr Diane Williamson.

“However,” she continues, “one of the potential issues with skin delivery is transit time and ensuring adequate delivery of the vaccine payload. Also there may be issues of tolerability of the patch in some people.”

Nevertheless, Williamson goes on to say that if these issues can be addressed, the patch has the potential to replace the current delivery method. Inventor Kendall told the TEDGlobal event that a pilot trial for the Nanopatch will now soon start in Papua New Guinea.

The country currently has the highest rate of human papilomavirus (HPV) infections and, unsurprisingly given their established connection, one of the highest rates of cervical cancer. Vaccination in Papua New Guinea has been difficult, though, because there is a shortage of facilities suitable for storing and delivering vaccine. It is hoped the patch method could change all that.

Kendall also hopes that other scientists will now explore the Nanopatch technology to create vaccines for other diseases, potentially even tackling HIV or malaria.

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Image credit: Thinkstock.

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84 comments

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8:14PM PDT on Jun 26, 2013

Noted.

6:07AM PDT on Jun 21, 2013

Thanks for the article!

5:44AM PDT on Jun 21, 2013

Alex H...I guess you didn't agree with the links I provided just a few comments below yours then? Is the American Academy of Pediatrics lying?

3:18AM PDT on Jun 21, 2013

In my opinion,vaccines are not a "Medical miracle"but one of the greatest,most harmful scams that has ever been unleashed on a trusting and uninformed public.The huge amount of vaccination damage that is never reported is attest to that.So now we have a patch,no doubt,a huge potential money spinner for its inventor?Why are these innovations always tested first on third world populations??Has anyone else caught up with the news that a "whistleblower"who worked on the Gardisil vaccine,and who has had trouble sleeping over what she was involved in,has come forward to state that this vaccine is dangerous and ineffective?However,my research has uncovered that it contains two ingredients which cause infertility!!?Is anyone else thinking "population control"??What about the numbers of girls who have died as a direct result of this vaccine!?My sister has a nurse friend who has told my sister that she has nursed children in a "vegetative state"after terrible reactions to vaccinations!!Why is this not splashed all over the front page of newspapers?People have a right to know what could happen to their child!

6:23PM PDT on Jun 20, 2013

So they are now New Guinea pigs. Hehe! About time I hate shots.

8:13PM PDT on Jun 18, 2013

Really? Why am i skeptical?

10:12AM PDT on Jun 18, 2013

And one from the American Academy of Pediatrics: http://www2.aap.org/immunization/families/mmr.html

10:11AM PDT on Jun 18, 2013

Lisa S....if you really believe that autism has spread because of immunizations - I feel sorry for you. That has been shown to be false: http://www.babycenter.com/0_vaccines-and-autism-separating-fact-from-fiction_1470554.bc
I could have gotten statistics from the CDC, but from your post I believe you think they are just lying to us. So I hope you read and trust the 'Babycenter' website...

6:15AM PDT on Jun 18, 2013

The first sentence of this article says that vaccines are a medical wonder. Perhaps, in their infancy this was the case, but today there is such a fervor to keep adding to the list of immunizations, that it's gotten ridiculous! Any mother out there,needs to be savvy about shots( or patches.) Do your own research & don't just go along blindly with what the Medical establishment says. There are more risks now with these immunizations than ever, so be wise! I raised three sons without them( alot of people do !) If I had a teenage daughter, I would never promote or expose her to this experiment with HPV, on the premise that it will prevent cervical cancer. We are really being fed a bill of goods here & I think it's a bogus one! In Missouri you can go to your public library & make a copy of the list of medical exemptions( for school) in the code of state regulations. It's a myth that you can't send your kid to school without shots, & I really believe Autism has become so wide spread because of them! If a kid lives in a ghetto type environment, that's one thing, but our living conditions today are pristine compared to days gone by!

4:59AM PDT on Jun 18, 2013

Interesting article and comments.

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