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Nanoparticles for more powerful vaccines

MIT ENGINEERS HAVE DEVELOPED AN INHALABLE NANOPARTICLE THAT IS MORE EFFECTIVE THAN UNCOATED PARTICLES DELIVERED BY INJECTION OR INHALATION.

November 2013

When it comes to inhaled substances, the lungs are built to be a first line of defence against infection, coated in a film of mucus that can easily be expelled when contaminated, and armed with the ability to disintegrate foreign bodies. Yet, their defence mechanisms sometimes prove too effective when it comes to medicines such as inhaled vaccines.

That is why engineers at MIT have developed a new, resilient coated nanoparticle that resists immediate disintegration in the lungs, ensuring greater vaccine effectiveness against influenza and other respiratory viruses.

These nanoparticles may also help prevent sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV and HPV, by creating an immune response in distant mucosal sites along the gastrointestinal and reproductive tracts.

The procedure involves reinforcing the vaccine particles with a lipid coating, equipping them to survive the body’s initial rejection barriers long enough to be captured by immune cells on the lung tissue beneath the mucus layer. Once captured, the nanoparticles are transported directly to the T cells, where the vaccine achieves its goal of creating an immune response that serves as a standard operating procedure for combatting any future infections by the same sort of particles.

The study was performed on laboratory mice using a version of the Vaccina virus that produces the HIV protein. Mice pre-treated with the mucosal vaccine containing the same HIV protein were able to fight off infection in the lungs, preventing it from spreading to the ovaries. They initially lost a little weight, but then fully recovered. In mice treated with other forms of the vaccine, the virus managed to spread outside the lungs, with substantial concentrations in the ovaries. All untreated mice suffered lethal consequences.

Nanoparticle vaccines may also help the fight against cancer. Tests were performed on simple models of melanoma tumours, with positive results over uncoated vaccines, but further tests on more challenging models would need to be done, as well as protein-targeting cancer vaccines.

The research team was led by Darrell Irvine, MIT professor and member of MIT’s Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research and the Ragon Institute of Massachusetts General Hospital, MIT and Harvard University. The study was published in the Sept. 25 issue of Science Translational Medicine by lead authors Adrienne Li and James Moon.

 

Source: This paper was published online by Science Translational Medicine on 25 Sept 2013 http://stm.sciencemag.org/content/5/204/204ra130.abstract