Researchers are developing a new type of drug delivery system that could allow people to self administer vaccines without the use of needles. Ben Gruber has more.
STORY: It's time for immunization shots, and 4-month-old Emily isn't happy. Neither is her mom. Emily needs two shots today but in the not too distant future her mom may be able to administer them at home. This pill is called MucoJet and researchers have proven that it can deliver vaccine-type drugs that would normally need to be administered with an injection. The capsule is inserted into the mouth against the cheek where it releases a jet stream of drugs using the same basic principles of an elementary school volcano science project. Mix different substances together to produce a chemical reaction that creates pressure and erupts. SOUNDBITE (English) DORIAN LIEPMANN, PROFESSOR OF MECHANICAL AND BIOENGINEERING, UC BERKELEY, SAYING: "When the pressure builds up high enough it builds up pressure on the nozzle then we get the jet." SOUNDBITE (English) NIREN MURTHY, PROFESSOR OF BIOENGINEERING, UC BERKELEY, SAYING: "So your drug is now being ejected out of the pill at a super high velocity and is coming out at a velocity high enough to gently permeabilize the epithelial cells and also go through the mucus and so it is this very mild permeabilization that we are doing that essentially gets the protein across the one or two barriers." The research is still in its early stages. MucoJet was able to deliver vaccine type drugs effectively in rabbits, but more research is needed to see if the tech is as effective in larger mammals and eventually humans. But if it works it could completely change the way vaccines and some other drugs are delivered. SOUNDBITE (English) DORIAN LIEPMANN, PROFESSOR OF MECHANICAL AND BIOENGINEERING, UC BERKELEY, SAYING: "It would be great to have better distribution of vaccines, especially when we are talking about rural areas. Also for parents who are worried about getting too many vaccines (for their child) at one time. This would actually allow you to space out vaccines because you can do it at home. You do not have to do it at the doctor." The technology could prove a game changer during a health crisis when large groups of people need to be treated quickly. The scientists are also working on a version of MucoJet that is swallowed and programmed to release drugs in the intestinal tract. This, they say, could one day lead to drugs like insulin being administered without injection as well. But for now baby Emily and her mom are just happy that shot day is over.