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By John Schieszer
Medical Minutes 

3D-printed vaccine patches, "shockwave" technology, and high-protein noodles


November 1, 2021 | View PDF

Sonic waves for clearing coronary arteries

Some heart centers around the country now are using novel lithotripsy technology to treat coronary blockages. This new technology is known as intravascular lithotripsy (IVL) and it’s based on the lithotripsy technology used to break up kidney stones. Shockwave technology delivers sonic waves to break-up problematic calcium, allowing the blocked artery to safely expand while restoring blood flow through a stent implant.

As coronary artery disease progresses, plaque in the arterial wall often evolves into calcium deposits. These calcium deposits narrow the artery and restrict blood flow. These bone-like structures make the artery rigid and more difficult to reopen with conventional treatments including balloons. IVL uses sonic pressure waves that pass through soft arterial tissue and preferentially disrupt calcified plaque by creating a series of micro-fractures. After the calcium has been cracked, the artery can be expanded at low pressure and a stent safely implanted to improve blood flow.

This new coronary technology is now more widely available. Interventional cardiologist and structural heart specialist Dr. Rajiv Tayal said the procedure is fairly simple and only involves one night in the hospital. “After 30 years of using the same tools to treat heart disease, Shockwave IVL technology advances our treatment offerings for some of our most complex patient cases. This novel application of lithotripsy reduces the patient’s risk of procedural complications and damage to surrounding tissue in the artery,” said Dr. Tayal, who is Director of The Valley Hospital’s Cardiac Catherization Laboratory in New Jersey.

Replacing shots with a 3D-printed vaccine patch

Scientists at Stanford University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have created a 3D-printed vaccine patch that provides greater protection than a typical vaccine shot. The trick is applying the vaccine patch directly to the skin, which is full of immune cells that vaccines target. The resulting immune response from the vaccine patch was 10 times greater than vaccine delivered into an arm muscle with a needle jab, according to a study conducted in animals and published by the team of scientists in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Considered a breakthrough, the 3D-printed microneedles are lined up on a polymer patch and barely long enough to reach the skin to deliver the vaccine.

“In developing this technology, we hope to set the foundation for even more rapid global development of vaccines, at lower doses, in a pain-free and anxiety-free manner,” said lead study author and entrepreneur in 3D print technology Joseph M. DeSimone, who is a professor of translational medicine and chemical engineering at Stanford University in California.

Study results show the vaccine patch generated a significant T-cell and antigen-specific antibody response that was 50 times greater than a subcutaneous injection delivered under the skin. That heightened immune response could lead to dose sparing, with a microneedle vaccine patch using a smaller dose to generate a similar immune response as a vaccine delivered with a needle and syringe.

While microneedle patches have been studied for decades, the work by Carolina and Stanford overcomes some past challenges: through 3D printing, the microneedles can be easily customized to develop various vaccine patches for flu, measles, and hepatitis or COVID-19 vaccines.

The microneedle patches were 3D printed at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill using a CLIP prototype 3D printer. The team of microbiologists and chemical engineers are continuing to innovate by formulating RNA vaccines, like the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines, into microneedle patches for future testing.

High protein and low calorie egg white noodles

Researchers from the Faculty of Allied Health Sciences, Chulalongkorn University in Thailand now are pleasing noodle lovers with udon and vermicelli products made from 100% egg white. These noodles are high in protein, low in fat, gluten-free, and may be suitable for those who wish to control their weight, older adults, people with certain diseases, and cancer patients.

Egg white is an excellent source of protein, rich in amino acids that are essential to the body, with no cholesterol. It is also easy to digest. The body can use it to the fullest to build muscles and strengthen the immune system. Boiled egg whites are recommended for older adults and individuals with health problems who require high protein but low fat diets, such as those with kidney disease, diabetes, or those who want to control their weight.

However, eating boiled egg whites every day and over a long period can be boring, and people may stop eating them altogether. Dr. Sathaporn Ngam-ukos, the co-founder of Thandee Innofood Company, said these noodles are made with no flour, no gluten, and no preservatives. “More importantly, the noodles don’t taste like boiled eggs because of the technology to coat the egg white with plant-based protein,” Dr. Ngam-ukos said.

The noodles are ready to eat without having to blanch or boil first. They can be eaten right out of the package, or used in either savory or sweet dishes as your creativity could dream up. Apart from rice vermicelli and udon noodles, the team is working on developing more variety of noodle products, as well as other forms of ready-to-eat health foods such as egg white digestive beverages.

John Schieszer is an award-winning national journalist and radio and podcast broadcaster of The Medical Minute. He can be reached at

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John Schieszer is an award-winning national journalist and radio and podcast broadcaster of The Medical Minute.

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