Researchers from the University of Chicago have found a new way to reduce vaccine-related inflammation from adjuvants, a key ingredient in modern vaccines that helps create an immuno-response that protects against various diseases.
While adjuvants are useful for activating inflammatory cytokines that are then able to protect against various diseases, some cause an excessive inflammatory response in the body and are thus difficult to implement in vaccine development. As such, the researchers behind the present study wanted to find a way to limit the possibility of inflammation while still guaranteeing the desired immune response.
After some searching, they came across a peptide known as SN50, which, as tests demonstrated, had the potential to disrupt pathways in cells that typically lead to excessive inflammation. In particular, this molecule seemed to interrupt a protein called NF-kB, known to produce inflammatory cytokines. Adding the molecule to a range of drugs, they found it was able to reduce inflammation and increase antibodies against various diseases in mouse models.
In mice with dengue, for example, they found that the molecule helped the body produce more antibodies to neutralize the virus. Meanwhile, in those with HIV, they found it also helped produce more antibodies that targeted hard-to-reach areas of the virus. It was also able to enhance a pre-existing flu vaccine's efficacy.
The next step for the researchers is to find whether a molecule smaller than a peptide is able to produce the same results. They also want to investigate how such a molecule could aid immunotherapy treatments for cancer and other health conditions. In particular, they say that their research has many implications for how vaccines may be designed in the next 5- 10 years, and could one day aid in the development of vaccines against SARS-CoV-2, especially if it becomes a seasonal threat.