AMES, Iowa -- Iowa State University researchers are on the cutting edge of developing a new vaccine that could protect the world from the flu, and so far they're seeing promising results.
"We read papers all the time about the epidemiological impacts of the diseases we`re studying," said graduate student, Adam Mullis. "And, it`s really gratifying to see how big of an impact our technology could have on the world."
"The nanovaccine is made of nanoparticles that contain proteins that are specific to the particular pathogen that we`re trying to immunize against," said Dr. Balaji Narasimhan, a professor of Chemical & Biological Engineering.
"These nanoparticles are made of FDA approved biodegradable polymers, which means they fall apart inside the body and they're about 300 nanometers or so in diameter," said Narasimhan. "That`s about three to five hundred times thinner than a strand of human hair."
The particles go inside the body, get internalized by immune cells, then they fall apart and release their payloads; which are influenza proteins.
"There are proteins associated with viruses like the flu and some proteins mutate," said Narasimhan. "Some proteins are different, depending on what strain of flu you`re going after and then some proteins are conserved across those strains, so they are the same."
The nanovaccine takes guesswork out of the equation.
"What we`ve done is we`ve put in some of those conserved proteins across different strains, into our vaccine, because now regardless of what strain is out there, this protein will help the immune system recognize that pathogen and neutralize it," said Narasimhan.
Another reason this nanovaccine could be a game changer is that it`s room temperature stable/thermally stable. The current flu vaccine needs to be refrigerated.
The most common way the flu vaccine is currently made requires growing viruses in pathogen free chicken eggs, and if you're allergic to eggs, that's a problem.
That's not the case with the nanovaccine.
"Our nanoparticles don`t use eggs," said Mullis. "Nothing that goes into them is made in eggs, so that would prevent that risk altogether."