Vaccines save lives, but sometimes they fail to reach the people who need them most, in parts of the developing world. A research team from Iowa State University is currently developing a new generation of vaccines that uses nanotechnology, and is delivered in spray form. One of the advantages of this new type of vaccine is that is can increase access to people living in remote areas because it requires no refrigeration and is simpler to administer.
Current vaccines typically work by introducing part of a virus or bacteria into the body, to trigger what is known as humoral response – the immune system’s ability to produce antibodies that prevent future infections. But more recently, science has started to focus on the use of T cells (white blood cells that monitor abnormalities and infections) to fight viral and bacterial infections, a possibility that these new spray vaccines also explore.
The formula of the vaccine includes protein sampled from the target virus or bacteria, covered in biodegradable polymers. Once sprayed or shot into the body, it will activate the immune system and trigger either the T cells or the humoral response to create specific immunological defenses, depending on the chemical composition of the vaccine.
Research so far has shown that the nanovaccine is effective to produce immunity with T cells on rodents. The next phase of the research will assess how it works with larger mammals.
The new type of vaccine offers practical advantages as it can be safely stored at room temperature for up to 10 months without compromising its efficacy. Additionally, the nasal spray format makes application, as well as follow-up shots, easier, even paving the way for self-administration. With no needles involved, it should be easier for parents to take their children through a pain-free procedure, an idea that has been explored by MIT researchers as well.
The findings of the research were recently presented at the 247th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), which was held at the Dallas Convention Center in the US.