Good news for public health: Bioengineering researchers from the EPFL in Lausanne, Switzerland, have developed and patented a nanoparticle that can deliver vaccines more effectively, with fewer side effects, and at a fraction of the cost of current vaccine technologies.
Described in an article appearing online September 16 in the journal Nature Biotechnology, the vaccine delivery platform is a deceptively simple combination of nanotechnology and chemistry that represents a huge advantage over current vaccine methods. This technology may make it possible to vaccinate against diseases like hepatitis and malaria with a single injection. And at an estimated cost of only a dollar a dose, this technology represents a real breakthrough for vaccine efforts in the developing world.
A vaccination is an injection of a non-virulent form of a pathogen or molecule from a pathogen (known as an antigen), to which the immune system responds, destroying and then developing a memory for the pathogen. Later, when a virulent form of the pathogen comes along, this memory kicks in and the intruder is quickly eradicated. Most vaccines protect against viruses or bacteria, but vaccine techniques are also being explored as a way to kill cancer cells.
Thanks to recent advances, an immune response can be triggered with just a single protein from a virus or bacterium. Recent research has also shown that the best way to get sustained immunity is to deliver an antigen directly to specialized immune cells known as dendritic cells (DCs).
This technique is not yet used clinically because there are two difficulties to overcome in targeting the DCs: first, there are not very many of these cells in the skin or muscle, where injections are usually made, so obtaining an adequate immune response with a single injection is difficult; and second, activating the DCs requires co-delivering a danger signal of some sort, otherwise the immune system will just ignore it.
|Contact: Mary Parlange|
Ecole Polytechnique Fd rale de Lausanne