Credit: UQ News Online

In a recent major study, researchers have designed and developed special 'nano patches' that can deliver vaccines without the use of needles within two minutes with 100 times less dose than used conventionallly.

The research was conducted by scientists at the University of Queensland (UQ) which was led by Professor Mark Kendall from the university's Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology.

Prof Kendall believes in the potential of the use of 'nano patches' for people who have needle phobia.

We believe it has the potential to - if not replace - the needle and syringe - certainly displace it ...

Of course most people don't like the needle - 10 per cent of the population have needle phobia ... Our technique is needle-free so it should appeal to many people.

He also added the method of administration took just two minutes and the patch is smaller than a postage stamp consisting of several thousands of proteins that are invisible to the naked eye.

Prof Kendall explained that a single Nanopatch vaccination only needed a hundredth of the dose of the needle.

The Nanopatch targeted specific antigen-presenting cells found in a narrow layer just beneath the skin surface and as a result we used less than one hundredth of the dose used by a needle while stimulating comparable immune response.

Our result is ten times better than the best results achieved by other delivery methods and does not require the use of other immune stimulants, called adjuvants, or multiple vaccinations.

With a 100th of the dose of the needle we have achieved equivalent or better performance. We have some subsequent work that is unpublished that has even shorter times than that, said Prof Kendall.

According to Prof Kendall, method of administration and storage are much easier.

Because the Nanopatch requires neither a trained practitioner to administer it nor refrigeration, it has enormous potential cheaply-deliver vaccines in developing nations, he said.

The study involved researchers administering dry influenza vaccine on the skin of mice for two minutes and the results were promising.

When compared to a needle and syringe, a Nanopatch is cheap to produce and it is easy to imagine a situation in which a government might provide vaccinations for a pandemic such as swine flu to be collected from a chemist or sent in the mail.

This is an exciting discovery and our next step is to prove the effectiveness of Nanopatches in human clinical trials, said Prof Kendall.