New nanoparticle-based 'adjuvant' could hold future of vaccine development
(Nanowerk News) Scientists at Oregon State University have developed a new "adjuvant" that could allow the creation of important new vaccines, possibly become a universal vaccine carrier and help medical experts tackle many diseases more effectively.
Adjuvants are substances that are not immunogenic themselves, but increase the immune response when used in combination with a vaccine.
However, due to concerns about safety and toxicity, there's only a single vaccine adjuvant – aluminum hydroxide, or alum – that has been approved for human use in the United States. It's found in such common vaccines as hepatitis B and tetanus. But even though widely used, alum is comparatively weak and will only work with certain diseases.
The new adjuvant is based on nanoparticles prepared with lecithin, a common food product. In animal models, it helped protein antigens to induce an immune response more than six times stronger than when alum was used. Researchers also showed that the lecithin nanoparticles were able to help induce a reasonable antibody response after only one shot, whereas it took at least two shots for the alum adjuvant to work.
Based on their studies, researchers believe the lecithin nanoparticles have wide potential applications and possibly a good safety profile. Their findings were just published in the Journal of Controlled Release, a professional journal in the field of pharmaceutics, in work supported by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
"In many cases, to make progress with vaccine development we need new adjuvants," said Zhengrong Cui, an assistant professor of pharmaceutics at OSU and corresponding author on the new study. "The material has to be safe, and lecithin is a common food product that's already widely used in pharmaceuticals. This new form of using lecithin nanoparticles as an adjuvant is promising and could become very important."
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