Stabilization method for hemoglobin could stabilize vaccines

Researchers found a way to stabilize hemoglobin, the blood's oxygen-carrying protein, which could result in the development of stable vaccines and artificial blood substitutes, the University of Connecticut said on Wednesday.

A University of Connecticut research team developed a novel approach in which it wrapped the polymer polyacrylic acid around hemoglobin to protect it from intense heat used in sterilization. The hemoglobin maintained its biological function and structural integrity in the process.

"Protein stability is a major issue in biotechnology," Challa Kumar, the primary investigator on the project, said. "What we've done is taken this protein molecule and wrapped it up in a polymer chain in order to stabilize it. In thermodynamics terms, we have restricted the entropy of the denatured state of the protein and stabilized it beyond our expectations."

The stabilizing polymer could have applications in stabilizing vaccines, the development of artificial blood, preserving vaccines without refrigeration and in biofuels, biosensors and biomaterials. If the stabilization method leads to a new substitute for human blood, it could stave off growing blood shortages in coming years.

Henryk Mach, a senior investigator with Merck's vaccine drug product development division, said the work could allow for new vaccine delivery technologies in the developing world.

"Being able to control the placement of proteins in polymer matrices of defined size brings exciting opportunities for producing potent and heat-stable vaccine antigens," Mach said.