Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, have developed a small device that administers vaccines through the inside of the cheek without pain or the need for a professional.
The MucoJet is a pill-sized cylinder that is used in the same way one would crack a glowstick. The device has a bulb on the end that patients squeeze to break a thin membrane separating two compartments: one filled with water and the other, a dry chemical propellant composed of citric acid and baking soda. When the two substances mix, they react to generate enough pressure to push on a piston in the device, which forces a small reservoir of the vaccine out the other end through a small nozzle.
When held against the inside of the cheek, the nozzle squirts the vaccine through the mucosal layer, which is difficult to penetrate without a needle.
Kiana Aran, lead author of the study said: “"The jet is similar in pressure to a water pick that dentists use. The pressure is very focused, the diameter of the jet is very small, so that's how it penetrates the mucosal layer."
The researchers have tested the device on cheek tissue from pigs as well as live rabbits. The tests simulated how oral flu vaccine are administered and showed that the pressure of the jet improved the efficiency of the drug delivery.
The researchers state that their data indicates the immune response should be at least as good as that administered via a needle. The MucoJet also reduces the biohazardous waste that comes from disposing of used needles, and can be administered at home by the patient, without needing a medical professional on hand.
The next step for the device is to test it on larger animals. The researchers are also experimenting with different shapes and sizes for the device including a version that can be swallowed to deliver drugs directly to the intestines. More so they state it could even be hidden in sweets, to make it more appealing to children.
Aran said: "Imagine if we could put the MucoJet in a lollipop and have kids hold it in their cheek. They wouldn't have to go to a clinic to get a vaccine."