Accelerating Vaccine Development with NanoparticlesCategory: Science & Technology
Posted: January 13, 2014 03:01PM
Vaccines are an invaluable medical tool that have saved countless lives, but have one serious flaw. They are hard to produce, store, and transport which makes it hard to get them where they need to be, and with the proper formulation. Researchers at the University of Washington however have developed a new approach for manufacturing and delivering vaccines with nanoparticles that could cut costs and time.
Vaccines work by exposing your immune system to a disease in safe doses, so that if you actually catch the disease, your body is ready to fight. That means that vaccines have to contain something to identify the disease, such as weakened pathogens or proteins found on the pathogens, and typically an adjuvant, which primes the immune system. What the researchers have done is engineered proteins that mimic infections and bind to calcium phosphate, and once calcium phosphate is added to the mix, you get the vaccine nanoparticles. When tested in mice the researchers found that eight months after treatment, the mice that received the nanoparticles responded three times better to the actual disease, than did mice that only received the protein.
If this technology were used on humans, it could realize a significant cut in the cost of storage and transportation as the protein would just have to be dehydrated or freeze-dried, with water, calcium, and phosphate added only when needed. However, work has not yet begun on translating this technology to humans, so we cannot expect it for some time.
Source: University of Washington