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Painless 'Microneedle' Patches Work As Well As Flu Injections

28 June 2017, 11:05 am EDT By Ted Ranosa Tech Times
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Researchers have developed new microneedle patches that can administer flu vaccines without the pain of using regular shots. People can simply press the patches on their skin and wait for the vaccine to be absorbed by their bodies.  ( Georgia Tech | YouTube )

You soon won't have to worry about getting painful flu shots as a new microneedle patch offers the same level of protection without the discomfort of injections.

In a study featured in the journal The Lancet, researchers developed a new device that can administer flu vaccines without the need for painful shots. The small, dissolvable patch makes use of an array of tiny needles to painlessly deliver the medication to the body.

The new patches were tested on humans for the first time and have already shown promise in providing similar protection as regular flu shots.

The developers of the new microneedle patches hope that their device could offer an easier, more affordable, and more acceptable form of flu protection than traditional injections.

Microneedle Flu Patches

Scientists from the Georgia Institute of Technology and a company known as Micron Biomedical have spent years researching and developing the new microneedle patch. They wanted to create a better way to administer flu vaccines without the use of painful shots.

The new patch makes use of tiny needle-like points made from the flu vaccine itself. When pressed into the skin of a person, the microneedles dissolve, allowing the vaccine to penetrate the outer layer. This part of the skin is known to contain immune system cells, which are used by the body to fight invaders such as viruses and bacteria.

The immune system cells absorb the flu vaccine and use it to develop protection against infection.

During initial testing for the microneedle patch, the researchers discovered that the device provided the same level of flu protection as vaccines administered through traditional injections.

Dr. Nadine Rouphael, a researcher from Emory University School of Medicine and one of the authors of the study, said they didn't see any serious adverse events in patients related to the treatment.

The phase 1 trial involved 100 volunteers and was meant mostly to demonstrate how safe the microneedle patches are to use. Follow up tests are needed to accurately show how effectively the new device can be in protecting people from influenza infections.

Despite this, Rouphael and her colleagues are optimistic about the results of the trial. It showed that the microneedle patch can produce antibody responses similar to regular flu shots.

Most of the participants in the trial also said they prefer to use the new device over regular injections and intranasal alternatives.

"It was really simple. It's kind of like a band-aid almost," Daisy Bourassa, a college instructor and one of the volunteers in the testing of the patches, said.

"It's not like a shot at all. If I had to describe it is maybe like pressing down on the hard side of Velcro."

The microneedle patches are also easier to use compared to traditional methods. Patients can buy the vaccine patches and apply the devices at home by themselves.

The new patches are also easier to ship to different parts of the United States and other countries compared to other flu vaccines, which must be kept well refrigerated.

The researchers believe their invention provides an ideal alternative for people who don't have the time to wait in line just to get a flu shot. They hope that the microneedle patches could become as easily accessible to the public as products found in online stores such as Amazon Prime.

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