By successfully encapsulating a vaccine into a spider silk microparticle, Swiss and German researchers have discovered a novel technique that will help fight cancer and certain infectious diseases
To fight cancer, researchers increasingly use vaccines that stimulate the immune system to identify and destroy tumour cells. However, the desired immune response is is not always guaranteed. 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.
Our immune system is largely based on two types of cells: B lymphocytes, which produce the antibodies needed to defend against various infections, and T lymphocytes. In the case of cancer and certain infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, T lymphocytes need to be stimulated. However, their activation mechanism is more complex than that of B lymphocytes: to trigger a response, it is necessary to use a peptide, a small piece of protein which, if injected alone, is rapidly degraded by the body even before reaching its target.
"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."
A virtually indestructible capsule
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."
Silk microparticles form a transport capsule that protects the vaccine peptide from rapid degradation in the body, and delivers the peptide to the center of the lymph node cells, thereby considerably increasing T lymphocyte immune responses. "Our study has proved the validity of our technique", reveals Carole Bourquin. "We have demonstrated the effectiveness of a new vaccination strategy that is extremely stable, easy to manufacture and easily customizable."
Towards a new vaccine model
The synthetic silk biopolymer particles demonstrate a high resistance to heat, withstanding over 100°C for several hours without damage. In theory, this process would make it possible to develop vaccines that do not require adjuvants and cold chains. An undeniable advantage, especially in developing countries where one of the great difficulties is the preservation of vaccines. One of the limitations of this process, however, is the size of the microparticles: while the concept is in principle applicable to any peptide, which are all small enough to be incorporated into silk proteins, further research is needed to see if it is also possible to incorporate the larger antigens used in standard vaccines, especially against viral diseases.
When science imitates nature
"More and more, scientists are trying to imitate nature in what it does best", adds Scheibel. "This approach even has a name: bioinspiration, which is exactly what we have done here." The properties of spider silk make it a particularly interesting product: biocompatible, solid, thin, biodegradable, resistant to extreme conditions and even antibacterial, one can imagine multiple applications, including wound dressings or sutures.
Carole Bourquin | EurekAlert!
Core electron topologies in chemical bonding
13.06.2018 | Yokohama National University
Troves from a search for new biomarkers: blood-borne RNA
13.06.2018 | Rockefeller University
An international team of scientists has discovered a new way to transfer image information through multimodal fibers with almost no distortion - even if the fiber is bent. The results of the study, to which scientist from the Leibniz-Institute of Photonic Technology Jena (Leibniz IPHT) contributed, were published on 6thJune in the highly-cited journal Physical Review Letters.
Endoscopes allow doctors to see into a patient’s body like through a keyhole. Typically, the images are transmitted via a bundle of several hundreds of optical...
Light detection and control lies at the heart of many modern device applications, such as smartphone cameras. Using graphene as a light-sensitive material for...
Water molecules exist in two different forms with almost identical physical properties. For the first time, researchers have succeeded in separating the two forms to show that they can exhibit different chemical reactivities. These results were reported by researchers from the University of Basel and their colleagues in Hamburg in the scientific journal Nature Communications.
From a chemical perspective, water is a molecule in which a single oxygen atom is linked to two hydrogen atoms. It is less well known that water exists in two...
The more electronics steer, accelerate and brake cars, the more important it is to protect them against cyber-attacks. That is why 15 partners from industry and academia will work together over the next three years on new approaches to IT security in self-driving cars. The joint project goes by the name Security For Connected, Autonomous Cars (SecForCARs) and has funding of €7.2 million from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. Infineon is leading the project.
Vehicles already offer diverse communication interfaces and more and more automated functions, such as distance and lane-keeping assist systems. At the same...
A research team led by physicists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has developed molecular nanoswitches that can be toggled between two structurally different states using an applied voltage. They can serve as the basis for a pioneering class of devices that could replace silicon-based components with organic molecules.
The development of new electronic technologies drives the incessant reduction of functional component sizes. In the context of an international collaborative...
08.06.2018 | Event News
05.06.2018 | Event News
28.05.2018 | Event News
13.06.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
13.06.2018 | Life Sciences
13.06.2018 | Information Technology