A better flu vaccine and no needles necessary? Tell me more!

BioTechniques News
Aisha Al-Janabi

Nanoparticle nasal vaccines seem to be an ideal candidate for respiratory diseases. Here, researchers have developed an effective vaccine for the influenza virus that offers wider protection than current vaccines.  

Every year the beginning of winter marks the beginning of the flu season. With every new flu season, a new flu vaccine is developed based upon predicted mutations of the influenza virus. However, there are usually many new mutations each year and that means whole population protection is reduced. The study, published in ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces, may have come up with an answer to influenza’s mutation problem – an intranasal vaccine. 

Researchers from the Institute for Biomedical Sciences at Georgia State University (GA, USA) hope that by harnessing nanotechnology they’ve created a vaccine with higher rates of protection against mutations, with the added bonus of no needles.  

Hemagglutinin (HA) – an essential surface protein affecting the functionality of the influenza virus – is made up of two parts, a head and a stalk. Intramuscular vaccines, which are currently used, express the head region of the virus, causing an immune response allowing immunity to develop. However, the head region of the virus is the most changeable part meaning that the vaccine may cause immunity for some variations of the virus but not for others. This is where the new intranasal vaccine can shine as it expresses the less changeable stalk of the HA antigen.  

Hate needles? Imagine swallowing your vaccines instead! 

An orally administered capsule has been developed, which attaches itself to the stomach lining where it injects an mRNA vaccine using a tiny needle.

Using electrostatic assembly, the researchers created nanoparticles that induce a local mucosal immune response in the chest and throat when delivered intranasally. This creates a strong line of defense at the first port of attack for the respiratory disease. The nanoparticles are made from three molecules, the first is polyethyleneimine (PEI) as a delivery system, the second is the HA antigen to induce an immune response and the third is an adjuvant (CpG) to increase the immune response.  

“The PEI-HA/CpG nanoparticles show good potential as a cross-protective influenza vaccine candidate. The combination of PEI and CpG in the PEI-HA/CpG nanoparticle group contributed to the multifaceted immune responses, leading to vigorous cross-protection,” commented corresponding author Baozhong Wang on the results of the study. “The conserved HA stalk region induced substantial antibodies in the nanoparticle immunization groups.” 

“Though no apparent adverse effects were observed in the study, a more comprehensive safety evaluation of the nanoparticle adjuvant system is needed before clinical trials,” explained first author Chunhong Dong; however, they did highlight “great potentials in the development of next-generation cross-protective influenza vaccines.” 


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