Needle-free injections

Devices that can deliver drugs into the body without using a needle could help improve the success of treatments for diabetes.

Devices that can deliver drugs into the body without using a needle could help improve the success of treatments for type 1 diabetes, according to researchers involved in clinical trials of a new vaccine for the disease.

The vaccine, being developed by researchers at the University of Bristol and King’s College, London, works by stimulating the production of protective immune cells that help restore the body’s insulin-producing system.

However, the needle used to get the vaccine into the body causes damage to the skin and can trigger an aggressive immune response that undoes some of the positive effects of the vaccination.

New technologies being developed at the University of Bath could one day allow doctors to deliver vaccines and other treatments into the body without having to use a needle. This would avoid triggering an aggressive immune response by the body during vaccine treatments.

“This is very important because we don’t want to turn on the immune system, and in recent years it has become clear that one of the things that aggravates the immune system is damage,” said Prof. Colin Dayan. Devices being looked into by the University of Bath researchers include special patches which use a small electric current to ‘pump’ medication across the skin, and other systems which use a series of micro needles to deliver drugs through the upper-most layer of the skin.

Professor Richard Guy, Head of Pharmaceutics at the University of Bath, said: “There’s a lot of work going on to develop minimally invasive technologies that make very small holes or perforations in the skin through which you can deliver not only the small molecules like the ones that are contained in patch treatments today, but also big molecules, like proteins, bits of gene, DNA, or vaccines.”

“The technology provokes small imperfections in the skin through which a drug can be delivered transiently, and then the skin will effectively re-seal itself and heal itself.”

Professor Colin Dayan, Head of clinical research for neurosciences and endocrinology at the University of Bristol, said: “There are a lot of cells just under the skin which are part of the immune system and if we can deliver something to those cells in a way that is not irritant it is likely that we will get protective immune responses rather than aggressive immune responses. “

“This is very important because we don’t want to turn on the immune system, and in recent years it has become clear that one of the things that aggravates the immune system is damage. “So damage to the skin and the presence of bacteria, certainly aggravate the immune system and make it respond in a way that is destructive.”