Nanoparticles may be able to carry synthetic vaccines

A group of engineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have designed a new type of nanoparticle that can carry synthetic versions of virus proteins that will elicit an immune response as strong as live virus vaccines.

Many vaccines consist of either synthetic versions of a virus or a dead or disabled form of the virus in an effort to prime the immune system to respond quickly when encountering the pathogen again. Synthetic virus vaccines do not tend to elicit a strong T-cell response.

Synthetic viruses are used when a virus is difficult to render dead or harmless, like malaria HIV.

In studies with mice, the research team found that by using specifically designed nanoparticles created from concentric spheres of liposomes to carry the synthetic vaccines, a strong T-cell response was achieved. The response included up to 30 percent of all killer T-cells specific to the protein of the vaccine.

This response is comparable to strong viral vaccines but without the safety concern of live viruses. This may allow for stronger vaccines to be created for diseases like HIV and malaria.

While more tests are required to determine that these nanoparticles can elicit an immune response against human disease, “There’s definitely enough potential to be worth exploring it with more sophisticated and expensive experiments,” Niren Murthy, an associate professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology, said.

Darrell Irvine, the author of the paper, is studying the nanoparticles' effect on malaria with scientists at Walter Reed and is also working on development for cancer and HIV nanoparticles.