Nanoparticles boost vaccines

2 February 2012

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Category: Research & medical benefits

nanoparticles.jpgScientists have developed nanoparticles that boost the effectiveness of vaccines in mice by mimicking part of the natural immune response. The new technology could improve existing vaccines and also be used in future medicines to protect people against a range of infections.

The technique is based on previous research that found that specialised cells in the skin, called mast cells, release 'granules' when they come into contact with bacteria or viruses. These small particles contain chemical signals and travel to lymph nodes where they help activate the immune response against the infection.

The scientists aimed to replicate these granules using synthetic nanoparticles that contained the chemical signal. It was hoped that this would make the immune system more responsive to vaccineS, which work by exposing the immune system to weakened or dead pathogens. The immune response teaches the body to recognise the threat and respond quickly in the future. Mice were given a normal vaccine against Influenza A (the common flu virus), either on its own or combined with the nanoparticles. Those that received the combination were more resistant when exposed later to a deadly dose of the virus than the mice that received just the normal vaccine.

On analysing the blood of the mice, scientists found a greater number and variety of highly specific antibodies after the combination therapy. This would have helped them fight off the infection better.

This is an exciting advance that could boost the effectiveness of many vaccines. However, more experiments will be required, especially on safety, before the technology can be trialled in people.