Inhalation is the new key to vaccination

by Taha Ali Khan

A lot of times the hosts get infected by the means of mucosal surfaces, one of which is found in the respiratory tract. What if there was a way through which an army of T-cells can be created and made available at such locations to defend swiftly from various viral infections? This is exactly what the researchers at MIT have been able to attain which has allowed them devise a new vaccination strategy. In the recently conducted study, the researchers showcased the induction of strong memory T-cell response in the lungs of mice. This was done by modifying a vaccine such that it could bind to the naturally occurring protein in the lungs. This helps to bridge the vaccine across the lining of the lungs which are often seen as a big mucosal barrier. The researchers attached peptide vaccines (which have a benign profile and have a straightforward manufacturing process) to the albumin proteins existing in the bloodstream allowing the peptides to amass in the lymph nodes where they were able to stimulate a strong T cell response. To further test this idea, the researchers took an albumin-binding lipid tail and attached it to a peptide vaccine in contrast to the vaccinia virus with the inclusion of CpG. CpG is an adjuvant that helps to initiate a strong immune response. Delivering the vaccine intratracheally to stimulate the inhalation exposure, researchers found that the memory t cell generation increased by 25-fold as compared to the injection into a muscle site away from the lungs.

Why is this a big deal? Well, the majority of the vaccines are given as jabs or injections into the muscle tissues. Whereas, a plethora of viral infections occur at the mucosal surfaces such as the lining of the lungs, the respiratory tract, the reproductive tract and even in the gastrointestinal tract. The readily available T cells at such sites will inherently help combat the viral infections more effectively and more efficiently. These types of vaccines will not only protect from viral pathogens but can also be used to treat lung cancer and in some cases, they can even prevent it from happening in the first place.

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