Researchers funded by the National Institutes of Health have developed a new silk-based stabilizer that, in the laboratory, kept some vaccines and antibiotics stable up to temperatures of 140 degrees Fahrenheit. This provides a new avenue toward eliminating the need to keep some vaccines and antibiotics refrigerated, which could save billions of dollars every year and increase accessibility to third world populations.
Vaccines and antibiotics often need to be refrigerated to prevent alteration of their chemical structures; such alteration can result in less potent or ineffective medications. By immobilizing their bioactive molecules using silk protein matrices, researchers were able to protect and stabilize both live vaccines and antibiotics when stored at higher than recommended temperatures for periods far longer than recommended.
The research was led by grantees of NIH's National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB), David Kaplan, Ph.D., and Jeney Zhang, Ph.D. candidate, at Tufts University School of Engineering in Medford, Mass. The National Eye Institute and the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research at NIH also contributed to this research. The researchers reported on their findings in the online issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on July 9, 2012.
"This truly exciting development is the culmination of years of creative exploration and research focused on a major problem in the delivery of health care. Dr. Kaplan and his team have done a masterful job at both understanding the key properties of silk, and applying these insights to a global medical challenge," said NIBIB Director Roderic I. Pettigrew, Ph.D., M.D. "This is also a wonderful validation of the type of team science we see in our Biotechnology Resource and Development Centers and their ability to combine cutting edge science in a number of fields to a variety of health needs."
|Contact: Kate Egan|
NIH/National Institute of Biomedical Imaging & Bioengineering