Silk stabilizer could eliminate need to refrigerate vaccines

Researchers at Tufts University recently found that a new silk-based stabilizer could get rid of the need to refrigerate vaccines and antibiotics, potentially enhancing vaccine delivery and storage in developing nations.

A team of Tufts researchers led by David Kaplan found that by using silk protein matrices to immobilize the bioactive molecules of live vaccines and antibiotics, the drugs could be stabilized when stored at 140 degrees Fahrenheit for extended periods of time.

"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 lifesaving drugs."

Medicines usually require refrigeration as part of a cold chain to prevent their chemical structures from being altered. Maintaining the cold chain is a costly process that accounts for as much as 80 percent of the price of vaccines. Cold chain failures lead to the loss of close to half of all global vaccines.

If future studies determine that the silk-encapsulation method is successful on a large scale, vaccination programs could be dramatically less expensive, improving the quality of life for millions around the world.