A new injection-free vaccination technique has been developed by scientists at King’s College London.
Scientists at the College have demonstrated the ability to deliver a vaccine to the skin without a traditional needle and shown for the first time that this technique is powerful enough to kick-start the immunising properties of the vaccine.
This important technical advance offers a potential solution to the challenges of delivering live vaccines in countries around the globe. A cheaper and pain-free alternative to hypodermic needles, it would also remove safety risks from needle contamination and could lead to more people taking vaccinations. It could have an impact beyond infectious disease vaccination programmes, and also help manage autoimmune and inflammatory conditions such as diabetes.
The team at the College created a tiny disc with several micro-needles made of sugar which dissolve when inserted into the skin. This dried live vaccine remained stable and effective at room temperature.
Testing the effectiveness of the vaccine in mice, the team observed how the vaccine dissolved in the skin and identified for the first time which cells in the skin ‘pick up’ a vaccine and activate the immune system. The immune response generated by the injection-free vaccine at room temperature was equivalent to that induced by the same dose of injected liquid vaccine that had been preserved at -80°C.
Dr Linda Klavinskis from the Peter Gorer Department of Immunobiology at King’s College London, said: “We have shown that it is possible to maintain the effectiveness of a live vaccine by drying it in sugar and applying it to the skin using microneedles – a potentially painless alternative to hypodermic needles. We have also uncovered the role of specific cells in the skin which act as a surveillance system, picking up the vaccine by this delivery system and kick-starting the body’s immune processes.
“This work opens up the exciting possibility of being able to deliver live vaccines in a global context, without the need for refrigeration. It could potentially reduce the cost of manufacturing and transportation, improve safety (as there would be no loss in potency), and avoids the need of hypodermic needle injection, reducing the risk of transmitting blood-borne disease from contaminated needles and syringes.”
Read more about the technique on the King’s College London website here.