Fabricated hybrid microneedle arrays attached to a syringe with an adaptor. The dissolvable tips are indicated with a green dye. (Credit: Burak Ozdoganlar, College of Engineering)

Researchers are developing and testing a new microneedle array platform capable of delivering vaccines directly into the skin, with the particular goal of improving COVID-19 vaccination in the developing world. The research will specifically focus on effective intradermal delivery of live-attenuated virus-based COVID-19 vaccines.

To address the shortcomings of dissolvable microneedles, he developed hybrid microneedles that can be filled with vaccine for painless delivery directly to the skin, where very strong and robust immune reaction can take place. To achieve painless insertion and prevent the microneedles from clogging with skin tissue, the researchers designed sharp, dissolvable sugar-based tips that penetrate into the skin and clear the way for the vaccine. The hybrid microneedle arrays can be attached to a syringe or produced as a stand-alone patch.

Besides simply being compatible with any type of vaccines (including the mRNA, DNA, protein subunit, and live, attenuated vaccines), microneedles are also advantageous because they could replace traditional large needles in parts of the world with a high burden of HIV and other diseases.