COVID-19 Vaccine. Image Credit- John Donges. License By CC 2.0

Needle-Less COVID-19 Skin Patch Vaccine Developed By U Pittsburgh Researchers

A research paper outlining a new type of rapidly developed vaccine effective against COVID-19 that does not require injection with a needle, appeared in the Lancet Elsevier EBioMedicine medical journal on April 1,2020.

The researchers hailed from various University of Pittsburgh departments, including the department of surgery, dermatology, radiation oncology, vaccine research, bioengineering, clinical and transnational science, and regenerative medicine. One other researcher was associated with the Erasmus Medical Center Department of Viroscience in Rotterdam, Netherlands.

Fortunately, ongoing scientific investigation that began long before the COVID-19 outbreak, actually directed at developing a vaccine against other deadly Coronavirus strains, namely SARS and MERS, provided a solid background for the team, permitting rapid progress.

COVID-19 Vaccine. Image Credit- John Donges. License By CC 2.0

COVID-19 Vaccine. Image Credit- John Donges. License By CC 2.0

The vaccine was developed using gene splicing technology, combing various sub-cellular DNA protein units together to create an effective solution that encourages the host to generate a “strong and long-lasting antigen-specific antibody response.”

Think of GMOs (genetically modified organisms) and CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats). The vaccine is produced by fusing various elements together to engineer a novel DNA sequence that, while eliciting an immune response, cannot actually give the vaccine recipient COVID-19. Ever.

Additionally, the vaccine will be applied with a small patch, much like a Band-Aid.

A micro-needle array comprised of microscopic needle-like projections that actually penetrate the skin, permit the active ingredients in the vaccine to find their way under the skin of the individual receiving the vaccine.

Microneedle array (MNA) delivered vaccines that are placed on the skin, rather than in a syringe, have been found to actually be more effective than the traditional route of the shiny silver needle.

This also permits economy of the precious vaccine, and therefore less needs to be used, per patient, saving on costs.

The dissolvable microneedles are quite interesting. One hundred obelisk-shaped microscopic needles are packed onto the skin-facing side of the patch, created from carboxymethyl cellulose.

The tips of each tiny projection are then fixed with the recombinant DNA vaccine, which ends up penetrating the skin.

Inflammatory cytokines and secretion of chemokines are released in a pro-inflammatory immune response, and the end result is, the patient will develop immunity against COVID-19.

The spike (S) protein of the Coronavirus, those long projections we all recognize by now from media illustrations of COVID-19, are what the vaccine targets when creating immunity in the host.

These spikes are what the COVID-19 virus uses to fuse with the host cells, causing infection.

The research study was funded by the NIH National Cancer Institute, though the funding institutions did not take part in construction of the study.

Of course, this is just a study, and the vaccine would have to be mass-produced and then somehow distributed by health professionals.

And, while it confers immunity against COVID-19, taking the vaccine after the fact, once a person has already been infected, would be too late.

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