Nano-vaccines that Can Mobilize Our Immune System

Injectable immunotherapies that use programmable biomaterials as a powerful vehicle to deliver targeted treatment and preventative care could help fight a whole range of deadly infections, including common worldwide killers like HIV and Ebola, as well as cancer,” said Wyss Institute Founding Director Donald Ingber, M.D., Ph.D.

This is the conclusive argument of Nanowerk News article from December 8th that treats the new scientific research at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University and Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), which results have been published recently in Nature Biotechnology.

Researchers have developed injection containing programmable biomaterial that behaves like a well-structured, highly trained and heavily equipped special military unit. Assembled in the vial at full alert, this response unit is programmed to conduct operations behind the enemy lines. Once it is deployed in the body, it assembles into 3D formation that “recruits and activates dendritic cells”, local partisan forces, to launch a full scale operation, a revolution, of tens of millions cells of the host’s immune system to search and destroy targeted hostile cells inside the organism, in vivo. Dendritic cells are the intelligence of our organism, responsible for alerting adaptive immune system that our organism is under attack. Usually they can be found in the close proximity of the skin, and other parts of the body that can get into direct contact with alien matter from the outside world, as in the stomach, intestines, nose and lungs.

Nano-sized biodegradable particles made from silica (known as MSRs, mesoporous silica rods) can be programmed in a way to carry a wide range of drugs and biological material with antigen (antibody generator) properties. After they complete their mission, MSRs will dissolve within few months.

So far, scientists have been focused on developing a vaccine to treat cancer, but any specific combination of MSRs and antigens can be programmed for a particular disease. Vaccines have been tested on mice, and the results are truly promising. Other advantages of this kind of treatment are that it can be administered in any type of environment, in the clinic, as well as in the field, and that it can be rapidly manufactured in response to any kind of outbreak of a certain disease.

Since it is a non-invasive treatment, such vaccines could even be used as a preventive measure, in order to prepare our immune system for the incoming threat.