Getting vaccinated is probably a child’s biggest nightmare. And unfortunately, they have to face that painful needle a lot just to ensure different doses of vaccines during their childhood. What if they could get the benefits of several vaccines just by a single jab of an injection? Well, this might happen very soon thanks to MIT researchers. They have developed a method, which lets a single injection carry multiple doses of vaccines, where each of the doses is programmed to be released at a particular time. Each injection carries enough doses of vaccines for the first one to two years of a child’s life.
Their secret? Sealed coffee cups
Researchers used PLGA, a biocompatible polymer used in prosthetics and implants to create microscopic coffee cups that contain the vaccines. Using a process called photolithography, first, they had to create an array of silicon mold of the cups. Each large array is capable of creating around 2,000 coffee cups. Researchers then used a custom-made dispensing system to fill the cups with doses of vaccinations. Finally, lids were put into each cup and heated until the cup and lid fuse together and create a tightly sealed container.
They designed the PLGA to break down at different rates if the molecules are manipulated, means the cups can deliver doses at different times. Their system was tested on mice, which was a great success. They injected the mice with cups designed to break down at 9, 20, and 41 days after injection. The cups remained completely leak-proof until the days they were supposed to deteriorate.
Robert Langer, the David H. Koch Institute Professor at MIT says:
We are very excited about this work because, for the first time, we can create a library of tiny, encased vaccine particles, each programmed to release at a precise, predictable time, so that people could potentially receive a single injection that, in effect, would have multiple boosters already built into it. This could have a significant impact on patients everywhere, especially in the developing world where patient compliance is particularly poor.
This innovation will not only save the kids from those scary moments of getting vaccinated but also those poor families from developing countries, who seldom visit the doctors. However, this is still a prototype and researchers are still working on to ensure the containers can remain intact at body temperature for at least a couple of years.