3-D printed vaccine patch pioneered at UNC could revolutionize how we distribute vaccinations

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WTVD) -- New technology coming out of UNC Chapel Hill could change everything about how vaccines are administered.

Scientists at UNC and Stanford created a 3-D printed vaccine patch that's as small as the tip of your finger.

The vaccine patch uses microneedles just long enough to attach to the skin. From there, the vaccine directly targets immune cells in the skin.

The brains behind the new vaccine patch said it creates an immune response 10 times stronger than a typical vaccine injection that sends its contents into muscle.

The skin patch is also painless, can be self-administered and doesn't need to be kept in the freezer. All of those advantages, according to the patch creators, should mean the patches are more efficient and easier to distribute all around the world.

"In developing this technology, we hope to set the foundation for even more rapid global development of vaccines, at lower doses, in a pain- and anxiety-free manner," Joseph M. DeSimone said. DeSimone is the lead study author and a professor of translational medicine and chemical engineering at Stanford University and professor emeritus at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Microneedles are not a revolutionary new technology. In fact they've been studied for decades, but this breakthrough overcomes past challenges in the production of the microneedle patches.

Now, UNC and Stanford said they can easily customize the microneedles for different vaccine patches--such as flu, measles, hepatitis or COVID-19.
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