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BBQ Lighter Combined with Microneedles Could Simplify COVID-19 Vaccine Delivery

BBQ Lighter Combined with Microneedles Could Simplify COVID-19 Vaccine Delivery

Handheld electroporator could dramatically reduce vaccination cost and complexity.

By Sam Brusco, Associate Editor10.25.21
A team of Georgia Tech and Emory University researchers have developed a handheld electroporator—a novel, pen-sized device that may simplify the complexity of delivering COVID-19 and other vaccines. The inspiration for their breakthrough was an electronic barbecue lighter.
 
The team reengineered the innards of the lighter into a small spring-latch mechanism. The device creates an electric field in the skin that’s the same as large, bulky electroporation machines with widely available, low-cost components that don’t need a battery to operate. The reimagined lighter device was paired with microneedle technology to create “ePatch”.
 
The microneedle-based system’s voltages are similar to typical electroporation, with 10,000 times shorter pulses and electrodes that only penetrate 0.1 inches into the skin’s surface.
 
“The close spacing of the microneedles allows us to use microsecond pulses rather than the millisecond pulses applied in conventional electroporation,” Mark Prausnitz, Regents' Professor and the J. Erskine Love Jr. Chair in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering said. “This shorter pulse, plus the shallow location of the microneedle electrodes, minimizes nerve and muscle stimulation, which can avoid pain and twitching, both common side effects of conventional electroporation.”
 
The simple, cost-effective eletroporator could dramatically reduce vaccination cost and complexity because it doesn’t require deep-freeze mRNA vaccine storage.

Read more about the device here.
 
(Thumbnail image courtesy of Candler Hobbs: Georgia Tech)

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