Patched and inoculated: a 3D printed vaccine

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Credit: The University of North Carolina at Chapel hill

Getting inoculated against the Covid virus is getting easier.

Researchers at Stanford University and the University of North Carolina,

have made a 3D printed vaccine patch that they believe gives greater protection than a regular vaccine shot.

What is the trick?

Applying vaccines chockfull of immune cells that vaccinate the person.

As published by the team of scientists in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

According to the study,

The immune response to the vaccine patch was found to be greater than a regular needle.
An improvement in current vaccine applications,

The 3D printed microneedles lined up polymer patches and were barely long enough to reach the skin to give the vaccine.
Lead on the study and entrepreneur in additive manufacturing and professor of translational medicine

and Chemical engineering at Stanford University and professor emeritus at UNC-Chapel Hill,

Joseph DeSimone says

,” the aim of creating this technology was to lay a groundwork for the rapid global development of vaccines, at lower doses, in a pain and anxiety-free manner”

The vaccine patch is not also easy and effective to use,

it is also paving the way for less invasive methods of vaccination and can be self-administered.

The vaccine patch was also shown to produce more t-cell,

and antigen-specific antibody response times 50 of a subcutaneous injection delivered under the skin.
The increased immune response could lead to dose sparing,

The microneedle vaccine patch using a smaller dose to achieve the same immune response as a vaccine injected with a needle.

The thing is microneedles are not a recent innovation and have been studied for decades,

But the work by Carolina and Stanford overcomes past challenges:

With 3D printing,

The microneedles can be madeto create different vaccine patches for

  • hepatitis
  • measles,,
  • flu or COVID 19 vaccines.

Advantages of a vaccine patch

Covid 19 opened eyes to the limitations of regular vaccination methods.

Although the regular method of vaccination seems simple,
The downtime of moving from home to clinics and training professionals for vaccine shots leads to a reduced vaccination rate.


Vaccine patches incorporate vaccine-coated microneedles that melt into the skin,

Could be shipped anywhere in the world without special handling and people can administer it themselves.

Furthermore, the ease of using the vaccine patch may lead to higher inoculation by the population.

“it is difficult to adapt microneedles to varying vaccine types,”

said Lead study author Shaomin Tian,

a researcher in the department of microbiology and immunology in the UNC school of medicine.
“This and along with manufacturing problems,

have arguably held back the field of microneedles for vaccine delivery'” she said,

A 3D printed patch offers flexibility and dexterity to inoculation.

The process

A large percentage of microneedles are made with master templates to make molds .

The molding of microneedles is not very flexible,

and flaws include reduced needle sharpness during replication.

” Our method allows us precisely 3D print the microneedles,

which give us a lot of design flexibility for making the best microneedles from a performance and cost-effective POV,” Tian said.

The microneedle patches were 3D printed at UNC at Chapel Hill, using CLIP prototype 3D printer invented by DeSimone and is produced by CARBON,

A silicon valley company he co-founded.
The team of microbiologists and chemical engineers are continuing to innovate by developing RNA vaccines,
like Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines, into microneedles for further testing.

Desimone further added,

” One of the biggest lessons we’ve learned during the pandemic is that innovation in science and technology can make or break a global response.”
“Thankfully we have biotech and health care workers pushing the envelope for us all.”

The growing use of 3D printing and health has increased in recent years.

With further innovation, the application of 3D print in all aspects of life will only increase.

The Cost-effectiveness of additive manufacturing also makes it promising.

Additional study authors include Cassie Caudill, Jillian L. Perry, Kimon Iliadis,  Addis T. Tessema and Beverly S. Mecham of UNC-Chapel Hill and Brian J. Lee of Stanford.

Source: National Academy of Sciences, University of North Carolina

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