Everyone hates their visit to the doctors, especially when you have to face the prospect of the dreaded pinch of an injection. While many people have been looking to replace it with less daunting alternates such as microneedle patches or jet injectors, they have failed to really catch on. But this latest technique might finally prove to be the game-changer we all so desperately desire!
Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley have developed a unique way to deliver drugs from outside the skin. They call it the MucoJet, which is a pill-sized device that shoots vaccines through the inside of the cheek which work without any pain.
The MucoJet is essentially a 15 mm (0.6 in) cylinder with a 7 mm wide (0.3 in) bulb on its end. The patient simply needs to squeezes gently on the bulb to break its thin membrane between two compartments, one with water and the other with the dry chemical propellant that consists of citric acid and baking soda. Upon mixing, the chemicals fizzes up and creates pressure to push an internal piston into the cylinder that forces the vaccine out of the other end via a small nozzle.
To use the product, you simply need to hold the device against the inside of the cheek and as soon as it is squeezed the device squirts the vaccine through the mucosal layer which can’t be penetrated without a needle. The drug is then delivered to the antigen-presenting cells, which are a group of immune cells that can speed up the fight against the invading pathogens.
“The jet is similar in pressure to a water pick that dentists use,” says Kiana Aran, lead author of the study. “The pressure is very focused, the diameter of the jet is very small, so that’s how it penetrates the mucosal layer.”
The technique was tested on living rabbits, where the MucoJet system was seen to deliver over seven times the amount of ovalbumin into the bloodstream as compared to the ones treated with a dropper, which naturally resulted in the production of many more antibodies. The studies also concluded that increasing the intensity and pressure of the jet improved the efficiency of the drug delivery.
While the researchers are still unsure about the comparison of their new delivery system with the conventional injection, they claim that their technique is at least as good as the needle if not more. The MucoJet has an additional benefit of cutting out the pain and reducing the biohazardous waste that results from the used needles, while the device can also be easily used at home by the patient without any professional on hand.
“Imagine if we could put the MucoJet in a lollipop and have kids hold it in their cheek,” says Aran. “They wouldn’t have to go to a clinic to get a vaccine.”
The researchers estimate that they will need about 5 to 10 more years before the technique can be scaled.
You can read more about the research in the journal Science Translational Medicine, and learn more about it in the video below: