The simple premise behind a new biomaterial-based vaccine is to ‘find it and kill it. As per experts, such a vaccine could fend off against several widespread pathogen attacks in the future.
While planning next-gen vaccines, researchers are relying on the idea that a structure of a future pathogen that may cause a pandemic will be one that they already have knowledge of.
The new class of vaccines is being developed to help the immune system respond to a variety of pathogens swiftly. They are trying to achieve this by supercharging the body’s immunity.
Biomaterial-Based Vaccine Might Help Prevent Future Pandemics
These vaccines are biomaterial-based which means that they are shelf-stable. The implication of this is that they will not have to be refrigerated like a few of the Covid vaccines.
This will aid poorer countries that lack the infrastructure to refrigerate supplies. It will also help to roll out vaccines at a faster pace.
Micheal Super, from the Wyss Institute at Harvard University, said that the new biomaterial vaccines tap into the body’s natural immune response. He is also the primary author of the new study that looks at what vaccines can do.
Today scientists can create a depository which is a small bean-shaped structure with the abilities similar to a protective lymph node that is, it works as a part of the body’s immune system in order to fight infections and diseases.
This opens the possibility of a biomaterial like silica which is an important trace mineral already present in the connective tissues of the body, could possibly be utilized to inject a pathogen to help the body produce antibodies to it and provide support to the rallies of the immune system.
Super said that they took the immune system to that site, and from there the dendrons of the cells take the antigen that was put in the biomaterial. He added that this evolves a danger signal that naturally activates the dendritic cells.
He also said that the immune system does not produce excess antibodies, but it responds much more quickly which in essence means that they are capturing again whatever the immune system does normally.
Cells learn what signals to send to the rest of the immune system as and when they mature at the deposit site. They do so so that the immune system responds to the pathogen targeted by the vaccine.
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After that, those cells move through the body while stimulating other cells that cause a response in the immune system.
Super and his research team, in their study, took this process a step further and used their biomaterial vaccine in order to introduce live attenuated pathogens into the body. This process ensured that the pathogen remained viable but harmless.
This process is different from the RNA vaccines used against Covid. These use genetically engineered agents that produce antibodies that target the virus.
Super said that they saw that they could take pathogens that were alive and kill them with an antibiotic and use this as a component of a vaccine of their choosing. He added that one does not have to do complex manufacturing. They can simply capture the pathogen, kill it, and mix it with the biomaterial which will then be injected into people. This causes negative antigens that fight the pathogen.
The team used this method to target a form of Escherichia coli that is very menacing to livestock. The team infected a pig with this strain and gave antibiotics to kill the infection and then extracted the dead bacteria from the pig’s blood and combined it with a biomaterial to create a vaccine.