A Georgia Tech team created a battery-free electroporation device to deliver DNA vaccines, which are inspired by barbecue lighters. Details of the operation of the vaccine injector are described in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The electric “spark” that ignites the flowing gas from a barbecue gas lighter has been reused to provide the power behind the electroporation. The battery-free piezoelectric spark mechanism of a lighter is connected to a microneedle patch that acts as a series of electrodes. When the device is pressed against the skin, it initiates electroporation and delivery of DNA vaccines within the cells of the treated area.
Electroporation involves applying a pulse of electricity to a tissue, which causes small pores to open in cell membranes, allowing genetic material to pass into cells without obstruction. The technique is effective as a means of delivering genetic material, but electroporation equipment is usually expensive and bulky, meaning it is not suitable for routine out-of-laboratory use.
Many of the new COVID-19 vaccines are composed of DNA. Currently, this means that DNA is embedded in lipid nanoparticles to help it enter our cells. However, these lipid particles increase the complexity and expenditure of these vaccines and may mean that they require cold storage. This makes them less accessible in many countries without cold chain transport.
Electroporation can be a way to introduce vaccines into our cells without the need for lipid nanoparticles. This group of Georgia Tech researchers has developed an economical way to achieve this by combining micro-needle technology with the piezoelectric spark mechanism of a barbecue lighter and they have named their device ePatch.
“My lab discovered that you could use something we’re all familiar with on July 4 when we make a barbecue: a barbecue lighter,” said Saad Bhamla, a researcher involved in the study, in a Georgia Tech ad. “Our aha moment was the fact that it has no battery or plug in the wall, unlike conventional electroporation equipment. And these lighter components cost only a few cents, while the currently available electroporators cost thousands of dollars each.” .
So far, researchers have tested the device with mice and it looks promising in terms of vaccine delivery. “At first, I wasn’t sure I would be successful when Georgia Tech asked me to collaborate on this project,” said Chinglai Yang, another of the developers. “Surprisingly, even on the first try, it went far beyond my expectations. Using this method with the same amount of vaccine, the ePatch induced an improved immune response almost ten times compared to intramuscular immunization or intradermal injection without electroporation. It also did not show lasting effects on the skin of mice. This means that it is easier to get protection. “
Here’s a video from Georgia Tech with more information about the technology:
Study a Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: A low-cost electroporator with microneedle electrodes (ePatch) for SARS-CoV-2 vaccination
Via: Georgia Technology