Polymer film slow-release technology may become a new method of vaccination

Researchers at the school have developed a vaccine similar to plaster. This vaccine delivers drugs through a polymer film, which can improve the effectiveness of DNA vaccines. Relevant papers were published on the online version of the journal Nature & Materials Science on January 27.

Vaccines are usually made from inactivated viruses and help the immune system build a barrier to prevent viral infections by stimulating the body's immune system. However, this method is too dangerous for viruses such as AIDS. In recent years, in order to develop more effective and safe vaccines, many scientists are exploring the manufacture of DNA vaccines.

About 20 years ago, scientists discovered that a DNA-encoded viral protein can cause a strong immune response in rodents, but it has been unable to replicate in humans. Until recently, a method called electroporation achieved some breakthroughs in the vaccination of DNA vaccines. This method first requires the injection of DNA under the skin, and then uses the electrodes to generate an electric field, which causes the skin cell membrane to open small gaps and allow DNA to enter. However, this process is more painful, and the results of vaccination are also uncertain.

The new research uses different methods to deliver DNA to the skin. The vaccine consists of multiple layers of polymer materials implanted with DNA. There are several micro-needles on the polymer film, which can penetrate into the skin about half a millimeter when attached to the skin. This depth is enough to allow the drug to enter the epidermal cells without touching the nerve endings of the dermis, so it does not cause pain. Once attached to the skin, the film will gradually degrade and the vaccine release process can vary from days to weeks.

Researchers can control the amount of DNA delivered by controlling the number of polymer film layers, and can also control the time of medication by controlling the rate at which the polymer film decomposes in water. Since this method increases the interaction time between DNA and the immune system, it also improves the effectiveness of the vaccine. In the mouse experiment, the researchers found that the new method of inoculation is better than electroporation. In the next step, they will conduct further experiments on primate-like animals.

The researchers claim that this vaccine patch is used for immunization of various diseases, because the DNA sequence can be easily transformed according to the needs of different diseases. Compared with protein vaccines, its advantage is that each protein has its own specificity, and there are uncertainties in the production and vaccination effects, but the behavior of DNA is always the same, regardless of the antigen encoding it uses.

Darrell Irwin, a professor of bioengineering and materials science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who is responsible for the research, said that if the vaccine is successful in human trials, it will change the way the vaccine is given. Since the syringe is no longer needed and can be stored at room temperature, the vaccine will be safer to use and transport. In addition, the use of skin-rich immune cells, the use of biodegradable sustained-release materials, and painless vaccination are also advantages of this vaccination method. "This is an interesting method, not only for vaccination of DNA-based viral antigens, but also for the transmission of other small molecules," Owen said.

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