Select your localized edition:

Close ×

More Ways to Connect

Discover one of our 28 local entrepreneurial communities »

Be the first to know as we launch in new countries and markets around the globe.

Interested in bringing MIT Technology Review to your local market?

MIT Technology ReviewMIT Technology Review - logo


Unsupported browser: Your browser does not meet modern web standards. See how it scores »

{ action.text }

Back to the Band-Aid

Perhaps the most remarkable vaccines in early development are those that cross the skin-as injections do-but without a needle. Several groups, including the Iomai Corp. in Washington, D.C., are working on a painless way to tackle this traditional route. Iomai researchers added cholera toxin to diphtheria and tetanus vaccines and rubbed it on the skin of shaved mice. The combination activates Langerhans cells in the skin, some of the mightiest of known immune cells. The mice built up blood antibodies against both diphtheria and tetanus.

The process, known as transcutaneous immunization, “could be particularly useful given the large surface area of the skin and its potent immune cells,” says Gregory Glenn, scientific director of Iomai. Eventually, the immune-stimulating concoction could be incorporated into bandages or patches. Instead of leaving the doctor’s office with a Band-Aid over a vaccination stab wound, a patient could go home wearing the vaccine itself. “It’s an exciting possibility, but we have a tremendous amount to learn,” remarks University of Maryland’s Edelman. For example, researchers don’t even know just how the vaccine crosses the skin. Studies to test the new method in humans are just starting.

0 comments about this story. Start the discussion »

Tagged: Biomedicine

Reprints and Permissions | Send feedback to the editor

From the Archives


Introducing MIT Technology Review Insider.

Already a Magazine subscriber?

You're automatically an Insider. It's easy to activate or upgrade your account.

Activate Your Account

Become an Insider

It's the new way to subscribe. Get even more of the tech news, research, and discoveries you crave.

Sign Up

Learn More

Find out why MIT Technology Review Insider is for you and explore your options.

Show Me