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Scientists developed a new vaccine based on spider silk microcapsules

Date: 13.6.2018 

To fight cancer, researchers increasingly use vaccines that stimulate the immune system to identify and destroy tumour cells. However, the desired immune response is not always guaranteed. 
Kredit: Laboratoire Bourquin – UNIGE.

In order to strengthen the efficacy of vaccines on the immune system - and in particular on T lymphocytes, specialized in the detection of cancer cells - researchers from the universities of Geneva (UNIGE), Freiburg (UNIFR), Munich, and Bayreuth, in collaboration with the German company AMSilk, have developed spider silk microcapsules capable of delivering the vaccine directly to the heart of immune cells.

This process, published in the journal Biomaterials, could also be applied to preventive vaccines to protect against infectious diseases, and constitutes an important step towards vaccines that are stable, easy to use, and resistant to the most extreme storage conditions.

“To develop immunotherapeutic drugs effective against cancer, it is essential to generate a significant response of T lymphocytes,» says Professor Carole Bourquin, a specialist in antitumor immunotherapies at the faculties of medicine and science of the UNIGE, who directed this work. “As the current vaccines have only limited action on T-cells, it is crucial to develop other vaccination procedures to overcome this issue.”

Scientists used synthetic spider silk biopolymers – a lightweight, biocompatible, non-toxic material that is highly resistant to degradation from light and heat. “We recreated this special silk in the lab to insert a peptide with vaccine properties,» explains Thomas Scheibel, a world specialist of spider silk from the University of Bayreuth who participated in the study. “The resulting protein chains are then salted out to form injectable microparticles.”

 


 

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