A New Class of Synthetic Vaccines
The search for a safer and more effective synthetic vaccine has gained ground through the efforts of immunologist Yung Chang of the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University. Through the use of DNA nanotechnology, the introduction of a new class of synthetic vaccines may be on the horizon. A science article reporting the findings of the study was published in the scientific journal, Nano Letters. The vaccine is the first of its kind to offer safe and effective delivery by piggybacking on nanostructures that are self-assembled and which have a three-dimensional structure.
In effect, DNA nanotechnology innovator Hao Yan treated the DNA like a scaffolding material, giving Chang the idea for its use in immunology. Taking advantage of the opportunity, Chang used the model to make a synthetic vaccine.
The biggest concern faced by the researchers was the safety of the resulting vaccine. Their goal was to create an assembly of molecules that would act as a natural trigger, to cause a strong, yet safe, response by the immune system. Chang credits the collaboration between the researchers at the facility and Hao Yan, like similar collaborations that have taken place to explore various applications to human health using the same type of technology.
The study included a test of DNA nanostructures with various shapes and sizes, resembling natural viral particles. Components of the tests included determining if the target cells had the capability to “gobble up” the nanostructures, and then testing the delivery of the vaccine to first responder cells. There is also a potential for developing additional therapies with the expansion of nanotechnology.