Home Cellular science Combining ancient and modern medicine, scientists use cupping to deliver COVID-19 vaccine in lab tests

Combining ancient and modern medicine, scientists use cupping to deliver COVID-19 vaccine in lab tests

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A battery-powered portable suction device for human clinical trials. Credit: Rutgers University

Rutgers researchers studying COVID-19 have created a new way to introduce DNA molecules into skin cells, using a suction technique similar to the ancient practice of cupping healing.

The study appears in the journal Scientists progress.

In laboratory tests on rodents, the team used the aspiration method to administer a DNA vaccine against SARS-CoV-2, which generated a strong immune response, about 100 times stronger than a vaccine. injected alone. Based on the results, the study’s funder, biopharmaceutical company GeneOne Life Science, Inc., licensed the technology for human clinical trials of a COVID vaccine. A human clinical trial has moved to phase II based on the high level of safety and immunogenicity of the technology.

“This suction-based technique is implemented by applying moderate negative pressure to the skin after nucleic acid injection in a completely non-invasive manner,” said lead author of the study, Hao Lin, Professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Rutgers. -New Brunswick. “This method enables an easy-to-use, cost-effective and highly scalable platform for laboratory and clinical applications for nucleic acid-based therapies and vaccines.”

Cupping is a traditional practice in which heated cupping is placed on the skin to create negative pressure, increasing blood flow to the area in an effort to promote healing. Nucleic acid medicine is a next generation technology using DNA, RNA and other biomolecules that control genetic information. It has grown considerably over the past two decades due to its promises in treatments and vaccines against various diseases. More recently, several nucleic acid-based vaccines have been rapidly designed, manufactured and mass distributed to fight the COVID pandemic.

Nucleic acid medicine works when synthetic or modified nucleic acids enter host cells and, using cellular machinery, direct the production of proteins encoded to trigger an immune response in the case of a vaccine. A key step in this process is the transfection, or delivery of purified nucleic acids across cell-membrane barriers into the cytoplasm (RNA) and nucleus (DNA) of host cells.

If DNA and RNA molecules are injected into tissue, they do not automatically enter host cells and most will degrade quickly unless protected. For example, in mRNA-based COVID vaccines, lipid nanoparticles are used to enclose the mRNAs in order to protect them and help them deliver them through the body. host cell membrane, so that the encoded protein is produced and an immune response elicited. Alternatively, an electric field is often used to deliver DNA to cells, but this method usually causes unwanted effects including inflammation, pain, and tissue damage.

But in the new study, after injecting pure DNA, the researchers applied suction directly to the site to create negative pressure on the skin. The aspiration produced tension and relaxation in the layers of the skin, triggering the absorption of DNA molecules by skin cells. The new method is simple, painless, and has no known side effects, Lin said.

“The development of improved delivery technologies is instrumental in the widespread use and clinical relevance of nucleic acid biologics, and worldwide. vaccine distribution is just one example, ”he said. “We have demonstrated an alternative, safe and efficient transfection platform that produces high levels of transgene expression. Benefits also include device cost-effectiveness and manufacturing scalability and minimal requirements for user training. Because of the inherent advantages of DNA, including avoiding the cold chain requirements of other vaccines, this technology facilitates immunization programs in remote areas of the world where resources are limited.

The study was a collaborative endeavor between the Rutgers’ School of Engineering and GeneOne Life Science. The Rutgers team was led by Professors Hao Lin, Jonathan Singer, Jerry Shan, Jeffrey Zahn and David Shreiber and graduate students Emran Lallow, Nandita Jhumur, Juliet Melnik and Sarah Park.


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More information:
Emran O. Lallow et al, New platform for in vivo skin DNA transfection by aspiration, Scientists progress (2021). DOI: 10.1126 / sciadv.abj0611. www.science.org/doi/10.1126/sciadv.abj0611
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Rutgers University

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