NIH study develops vaccine and antibiotic stabilizer

National Institutes of Health researchers have announced a new silk-based stabilizer that kept some antibiotics and vaccines stable at temperatures of up to 140 degrees Fahrenheit.

David Kaplan and Jeney Zhang at Tufts University School of Engineering collaborated with the National Eye Institute and the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research at the NIH on the research.

"New studies are already under way," Kaplan said. "We have already begun trying to broaden the impact of what we're doing to apply to all vaccines. Based on what we've seen with other proteins, peptides, and enzymes, there's no reason to believe that this wouldn't be universal. This could potentially eliminate the need for a cold-chain system, greatly decreasing costs and enabling more widespread availability of these life-saving drugs."

The development may eliminate the need to keep some antibiotics and vaccines refrigerated, which could save billions of dollars annually and increase accessibility to the third world. The researchers immobilized the bioactive molecules of the vaccines and antibiotics using silk protein matrices, allowing them to protect and stabilize the materials.

"This truly exciting development is the culmination of years of creative exploration and research focused on a major problem in the delivery of health care," Roderic I. Pettigrew, the director of the NIBIB, said. "Dr. Kaplan and his team have done a masterful job at both understanding the key properties of silk, and applying these insights to a global medical challenge. This is also a wonderful validation of the type of team science we see in our Biotechnology Resource and Development Centers and their ability to combine cutting edge science in a number of fields to a variety of health needs."

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