A team at Georgia Tech rigged a battery-free electroporation device to deliver DNA vaccines, which is inspired by barbecue lighters. Details of the operation of the vaccine injector are described in procedures of the National Academy of Sciences. The electrical ‘spark’ that ignites the gas flowing from a barbecue gas lighter has been reused to provide the energy behind electroporation. The batteryless piezoelectric spark mechanism of a lighter is connected to a patch of microneedles that acts as an array of electrodes. When the device is pressed against the skin, it initiates electroporation and delivery of DNA vaccines into the cells in the treated area.
Electroporation involves applying a pulse of electricity to tissue, causing tiny pores to open in cell membranes, allowing genetic material to pass into cells unhindered. The technique is effective as a means of delivering genetic material, but electroporation equipment is often expensive and bulky, meaning it is not suitable for routine use outside the laboratory.
Many of the new COVID-19 vaccines are made up of DNA. Today this means that DNA is encased in lipid nanoparticles to help it enter our cells. However, such lipid particles add to the complexity and cost of these vaccines and may mean that they require cold storage. This makes them less accessible for many countries without cold chain transport.
Electroporation can be a way to deliver vaccines to our cells without the need for lipid nanoparticles. This group of Georgia Tech researchers has developed an inexpensive way to achieve this by combining microneedle technology with the piezoelectric spark mechanism of a barbecue lighter, and they have named their device ePatch.
“My lab found that it could use something we’re all familiar with on the 4th of July when we barbecue: a barbecue lighter,” said Saad Bhamla, a researcher involved in the study, in an advertisement for Georgia Tech. aha was the fact that it does not have a battery or a wall socket, unlike conventional electroporation equipment. And these lighter components cost just pennies, while currently available electroporators cost thousands of dollars each. “
So far, researchers have tested the device on mice, and it looks promising in terms of delivering vaccines. “At first, I wasn’t sure it would be successful when Georgia Tech asked me to help on this project,” said Chinglai Yang, another developer. “Surprisingly, even on the first try, it far exceeded my expectations. Using this method with the same amount of vaccine, the ePatch induced an immune response almost ten times better than intramuscular immunization or intradermal injection without electroporation. It also showed no lasting effects on the skin of the mice. What this means is that protection is easier to achieve. “
Here’s a video from Georgia Tech with more information on the technology:
To study in procedures of the National Academy of Sciences: A very low cost electroporator with microneedle electrodes (ePatch) for vaccination against SARS-CoV-2
Via: Georgia Tech