Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) successfully tested the new technology in mice and reported their findings in the journal Science.
The technology stores the vaccine in microscopic capsules that release the initial dose and boosters at specific times. The capsules look like tiny coffee cups that are filled with the vaccine and sealed with a lid.
The capsule degrades slowly inside the body. This reduces the risk of side effects and allows for more constant dose-delivery.
Another exciting advantage of the new technology is that the capsules can be modified to break down at exactly the right time. Tests in mice showed that the capsules could release their contents at exactly 9 days, 20 days, or 41 days after they were injected.
They have also developed slow-release capsules that last for hundreds of days, opening up the possibility of a single shot that could deliver multiple boosters later on.
Professor Robert Langer of MIT explained:
For the first time, we can create a library of tiny, encased vaccine particles, each programmed to release at a precise, predictable time, so that people could potentially receive a single injection that, in effect, would have multiple boosters already built into it.”
Childhood vaccinations are currently given in dozens of different injections. Babies receive shots against diphtheria, tetanus, polio, whooping cough, Hib disease, hepatitis B, measles, mumps, rubella, pneumococcal disease, and meningitis.
The new technology could allow all of these vaccinations to be given in a single injection. Experts say the technology could encourage people to get vaccinated, especially in rural areas and developing countries where children see healthcare professionals less frequently.