Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : June 15th 2013 Contents A32
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Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Saturday, June 15, 2013
A skin patch that can deliver vaccines cheaply
and effectively has been shown off at the TEDGlobal
conference in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Using a patch rather than a needle could transform
disease prevention around the world, said its inven-
tor.Prof Mark Kendall said the new method offered
hope of usable vaccines for diseases such as malaria.
Other medical experts welcomed the news, but
warned it might be unsuitable for some patients.
It was fitting that Prof Kendall delivered his talk
in Edinburgh where, 160 years previously, Alexander
Wood had lodged the first patent for the needle and
"The patent looked almost identical to the needles
we use today. This is a 160-year-old technology," he
It is also one that, alongside clean water and san-
itation, has played a key role in ensuring longer lifes-
pans around the world.
But he said the technology could be overdue for
The nanopatch overcomes some of the more obvi-
ous disadvantages of syringe-given vaccines such as
needle phobia and the possibility of contamination
caused by dirty needles.
But there are other reasons why the method could
be transformative, said the professor.
Thousands of tiny projections in the patch release
the vaccine, which is applied in dry form, into the
"The projections on the nanopatch work with the
skin's immune system. We target these cells that
reside just a hair's breadth from the surface of the
skin," said Prof Kendall.
"It seems that we may have been missing the
immune sweet spot which may be in the skin rather
than the muscle which is where traditional needles
go."In tests at his laboratory in Queensland University,
Brisbane, the nanopatch was used to administer the
Researchers noticed that the immune responses
for vaccines administered with the nanopatch were
completely different to those given by a traditional
"It means that we can bring a completely different
tool to vaccination," said Prof Kendall.
The amount of vaccine needed to be effective is
much lower, up to one hundredth of the traditional
"A vaccine that had cost $10 can be brought down
to just 10 cents, which is very important in the devel-
oping world," he added.
Another major shortcoming of traditional vaccines
is that, because they are liquid, they need to be kept
refrigerated between the lab and the clinic.
"Half of vaccines in Africa are not working properly
because refrigeration has failed at some point in the
chain," said Dr Kendall.
When he told the TED audience that the vaccine
for the nanopatch could be kept at 23C (73F) for up
to a year, he elicited a huge round of applause.
The news was given a more qualified welcome by
the British Society for Immunology.
"This approach holds out hope for easy and large-
scale vaccination, as it targets a type of immune cell,
called the Langerhans cell, that is abundant in the
skin," said Dr Diane Williamson.
"These cells avidly take up the vaccine and are
able to kick-start the immune response.
"However, one of the potential issues with skin
delivery is transit time and ensuring adequate delivery
of the vaccine payload.
"Also there may be issues of tolerability of the
patch in some people. However, if these issues can
be overcome, the approach does hold out the potential
to dispense with conventional needle-based intra-
The nanopatch will soon begin field tests in Papua
New Guinea where vaccines are in short supply.
The country also sees the highest incidence of the
HPV virus, which can cause cervical can-
cer.Prof Kendall said that while he finds it
hard to imagine a world without traditional
needles and syringes, he is hopeful that the
new method can be widely adopted.
"Let's hope for a future where millions
of deaths a year from preventable diseases
can be a historical footnote because of rad-
ically improved vaccines," he said. (BBC)
Future vaccines could be delivered via patch
Using a patch rather
than a needle could
prevention around the
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