Children could soon be given ALL-IN-ONE single jab against diseases

An automated dispensing system can be used to load drugs into the 3-D microparticles. Courtesy of the Langer lab

British kids typically receive 15 injections under the childhood immunisation programme before their fourth birthday.

The scientists created microscopic capsules using the polymer and silicon moulds and filled each container with a drug and heat-sealed a lid over each one to keep them from leaking before the scheduled breakdown. Massachusetts Institute of Technology medical engineering expert Prof Robert Langer - for some years the engineer most cited in primary research around the world and the 2015 victor of the Royal Academy of Engineering's Queen Elizabeth Prize - has led research that could see all those jabs combined into a single dose.

The technology could lead to a whole collection of vaccines being incorporated into a single jab, including boosters that are released after a specific time period.

Noting that ease and efficiency in getting vaccines into less developed areas of the world will have a positive effect on world health, Langer observed, "This could have a significant impact on patients everywhere, especially in the developing world". For this project, however, the goal was to deliver short bursts of a vaccine at specific times. They used photolithography to create silicone molds for both the cups and the lids, then placed about 2,000 of the molds onto a glass slide. They're calling the method SEAL, which stands for StampEd Assembly of polymer Layers.

The microcapsules, or "coffee cups" are made from polylactic-co-glycolic acid (PLGA), an FDA approved polymer used in prosthetics and implants.

Once injected into the body, the microparticles degrade at different rates, depending on how the polymer is formulated - upon degrading, they release the vaccine.

"Each layer is first fabricated on its own, and then they're assembled together", Jaklenec said. "This new method...can be used with any thermoplastic material and allows for fabrication of microstructures with complex geometries that could have broad applications, including injectable pulsatile drug delivery, pH sensors, and 3-D microfluidic devices".

Recent developments show that "cup" particles that release their contents hundreds of days after injection are viable, according to the researchers. Researchers are also working on particles that could last hundreds of days before spreading out into the body.

Fellow researcher Dr Kevin McHugh said: "In the developing world, that might be the difference between not getting vaccinated and receiving all of your vaccines in one shot".

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