Health Care

Every childhood vaccine may go into a single jab

Every childhood vaccine may go into a single jab”

That could allow babies in developing nations, who might not see a doctor very often, to get one injection after birth that would deliver all of the vaccines they would need during the first one or two years of life.

But scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, US, hope to cut this to just one.

To create the cups, they first had to make an array of silicon molds using a process called photolithography.

Scientists in the U.S. are developing a new method of containing vaccines in microscopic sealed "coffee cups". The particles are made from an FDA-approved and biocompatible polymer called PLGA, created to degrade at different rates to release the doses at different times.

The key to the innovation is a microparticle that not only contains all the active ingredients of the immunisations, but releases them into the bloodstream in bursts at intervals that can be precisely timed by engineering how the particles are constructed, mimicking the way that the vaccines are given now in separate doses but with only one traumatic needle. These moulds are used to cast cube-shaped open-sided boxes, a few hundred microns along each side, from the biocompatible, degradable polymer PGLA (polylactic-co-glycolic acid), a combination of lactic and glycolic acid units polymerised together, which is already used for medical applications.

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A discovery at MIT could change the way childhood vaccines are given.

Once the polymer cups were made, a special automated dispensing system was used to fill each one with a drug or vaccine. In doing so we developed a new method that can make structures which current 3-D printing methods cannot. "This could have a significant impact on patients everywhere, especially in the developing world where patient compliance is particularly poor". "This new method...can be used with any thermoplastic material and allows for fabrication of microstructures with complex geometries that could have broad applications, including injectable pulsatile drug delivery, pH sensors, and 3-D microfluidic devices". A solution may be on the way, however - scientists at MIT have created a system that allows many doses of medicine to be delivered over an extended time period, via a single injection.

Once injected into the body, the microparticles degrade at different rates, depending on how the polymer is formulated - upon degrading, they release the vaccine. In lab tests on mice, the particles successfully released their payloads at 9, 20 and 41 days after all being injected together.

The team have also designed particles that can break down after hundreds of days and are now testing the particles with a number of drugs and vaccines.

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