Apr 4, 2017 | By Tess
A team of researchers from the University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley) has developed a potentially game-changing vaccine administration device called MucoJet. The tiny device, which is made with the help of 3D printing, allows users to easily administer a vaccination by shooting a pressurized stream of the vaccine into the tissue of the cheek, doing away with the need for needle injections.
While I always understood the importance of vaccinations, that still didn’t change the sense of dread I felt when it was shot day at school or at the doctor’s office. I mean, who in their right mind likes being painfully jabbed by a needle? Aside from the discomfort and stress of the process, administering vaccinations with a syringe also introduces a number of other challenges, such as having to train staff or volunteers to make the injections, which is costly and makes it harder to make the drug widely accessible.
To overcome these challenges, a team of researchers from UC Berkeley, led by professor of mechanical and bioengineering Dorian Liepmann, has developed MucoJet, a self administered, needle-free device that makes giving vaccines easier than ever. At this stage, the researchers have completed a proof-of-concept study, which was recently published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.
The MucoJet device is a small (15 x 7 mm) cylindrical device that is composed of two main parts: an interior compartment and an exterior compartment. The latter is designed to hold 250 milliliters of water, while the former is made up of two reservoirs, one of which houses the vaccine solution in powder form while the other houses a chemical propellant. The solid exterior of the MucoJet device is 3D printed from a biocompatible and waterproof plastic resin.
The beauty behind the device is that the patient can simply click the two compartments together, which will cause the diving membrane to dissolve, which in turn will put the water into contact with the chemical propellant. When this happens, the reaction causes a build-up of carbon dioxide gas, which creates the pressure needed to eject the vaccine out of the end nozzle. A free-moving piston built into the interior compartment allows for the uniform release of the vaccine, and blocks the carbon dioxide.
The vaccine itself should have enough force from the pressure to penetrate the mucosal layer of the patient’s buccal tissue (located in the mouth) so it can reach antigen-presenting cells. The researchers say that targeting the mouth’s buccal region is important, because of its high presence of immune cells and because it is where many infections enter the body in the first place.
“The jet is similar in pressure to a water pick that dentists use,” explained Kiana Aran, the postdoctoral scholar who developed the technology working in Liepmann’s lab. “The pressure is very focused, the diameter of the jet is very small, so that’s how it penetrates the mucosal layer.”
(Images: UC Berkeley)
So far, the researchers have tested their MucoJet device using samples of mucusal layers and buccal tissues from pigs, and actual rabbits. In the tests, they were delivering ovalbumim, an immune stimulating protein, to see how MucoJet delivery compared to other oral delivery methods, such as a dropper. The tests showed that compared to the dropper technique, MucoJet was far more effective in delivering the drug. So far, the device’s efficiency has not been tested against needle injections.
The next step in testing the 3D printed device will be to administer a real vaccine in larger animals to see its efficiency. At this stage, the researchers are confident that their innovative and potentially game-changing device could be widely available in the next five to ten years.
The benefits of having a non-invasive, self-administered vaccination technique are significant as well. As the researchers explain, the MucoJet could make it way easier to deliver and administer vaccines in remote parts of the world, as the device does not require an abundance of trained staff or the same level of sterilization as needle injections. To make vaccinations even less scary (especially for kids), the team has even thought about making a lollipop MucoJet device.
Posted in 3D Printing Application
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