ACS Central Science analyzes immune system response to enhanced vaccines
Certain vaccines, such as the seasonal influenza vaccine, are comprised of dead or else weakened strains of a disease-causing pathogen. However, other vaccines use a single protein or similar molecule, like an antigen, that is unique to the microbe. Examples of these vaccines include meningitis and hepatitis B.
When vaccines contain an entire pathogen, the body’s natural immune system reacts strongly. Part of this reaction involves warning cellular watchmen, known as the toll-like receptors (TLR).
Vaccines that are based on antigens cause a weaker response from the immune system, but these vaccines also have fewer side effects. This is why physicians typically use an adjuvant to improve the effectiveness of the vaccines. A typical adjuvant is an activator or TLR agonist. Several TLRs unite to direct the immune system without any provocation from the vaccine.
The scientists wanted to see if they could direct the TLRs to enhance the effectiveness of vaccines that are based in antigens. They used synthesized probes with three separate TLR agonists that had a specific spatial orientation for their research and found that this method significantly improved the efficacy of the vaccine and the body’s immune response.