Inhalable vaccines for lung diseases on the horizon

Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University recently have discovered a unique approach to creating inhalable vaccines for pneumonia and influenza.

The vaccines are made using nanoparticles and also show promise for curing lung-specific diseases, including tuberculosis.

Cathy Fromen and Gregory Robbins, members of the DeSimone and Ting labs at the schools, revealed that a particle's surface charge plays an important role in getting immune responses in the lung. Utilizing the Particle Replication in Nonwetting Templates technology that was created in the DeSimone lab, Fromen and Robbins modified the surface charge of protein-loaded particles while managing to avoid disruption of other particle features, thus demonstrating PRINT's ability to modify particle attributes independently from one another.

When delivered through the lungs, particles with a positive surface charge were shown to elicit antibody responses, both in the lung and in the body. By contrast, negatively charged particles of the same composition led to weaker immune responses and in some cases, undetectable immune responses. This suggests that particle charge is an important consideration in pulmonary vaccination.

These findings were published in a recent edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and could potentially have public health implications for improving the accessibility of the vaccines. An inhalable vaccine could possibly eliminate the need for refrigeration, which can not only improve the shelf life of the vaccine, but may also enable distribution of the vaccines to low-resource areas globally.