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New Approach May Lead to Inhalable Vaccines for Influenza, Pneumonia

Researchers modify nanoparticles

Scientists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University have discovered a new approach to creating inhalable vaccines using nanoparticles that shows promise for targeting lung-specific diseases, such as influenza, pneumonia, and tuberculosis.

The investigators found that a particle’s surface charge plays a key role in eliciting immune responses in the lung. Using the Particle Replication in Nonwetting Templates (PRINT) technology, they were able to specifically modify the surface charge of protein-loaded particles while avoiding disruption of other particle features.

When delivered through the lung, particles with a positive surface charge were shown to induce antibody responses both locally in the lung and systemically in the body. In contrast, negatively charged particles of the same composition led to weaker, and in some cases undetectable, immune responses, suggesting that the particle charge is an important consideration for pulmonary vaccination.

The findings, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, also have broad public health implications for improving the accessibility of vaccines, according to the investigators. An inhalable vaccine may eliminate the need for refrigeration, which not only can improve shelf life, but also allows distribution of vaccines to low-resource areas, including many developing countries where there is significant need for better access to vaccines.

Sources: Medical Xpress; January 7, 2015; and PNAS; December 29, 2014.


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