The ability to administer vaccines and life-saving drugs no longer through needles and syringes, but simply through new compressed-air approaches may soon be a real option.

Taking a significant step toward this direction are scientists at the University of Texas at Dallas, who presented the results of their work at the spring meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS). The team, led by Jeremiah Gassensmith and Yalini Wijesundara, developed MOF-Jet, an innovative system for delivering powdered vaccines through gas compression.

This method, the authors claim, does not require refrigeration of the drugs and does not require inoculation of the substances through syringes. “MOF-Jet,” Gassensmith argues, “could easily deliver therapies against cancer and other diseases in a relatively painless manner. The research team took a cue from jet injectors dating back to the 1960s, which used compressed gas to transmit a narrow flow of fluids.

The technology was adapted to transport solids through metal-organic frameworks, or MOFs. These porous, crystalline media act as molecular cages to encapsulate a wide variety of materials, including nucleic acids and proteins. “Our approach,” Wijesundara notes, “allows vaccine formulations to be stored as powders, which therefore do not require the maintenance of cold chains and extreme temperatures.

The device’s “bullets” were injected inside onion cells and into a mouse model. The experts go on to point out that the release of the cargo can be adjusted simply by varying the carrier gas of the injector.

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