Researchers have developed a Vaccine made from Spider Silk

Researchers have developed a Vaccine made from Spider Silk

Vaccines created from Spider Silk Biopolymers are extremely helpful in identifying and destroying cancerous cells.

Cancer is a fatal disease which involves uncontrolled growth of abnormal body cells. These lumps of cells then spread to other parts of the body which leads to several complications. One of the reasons why a very small number of cancer patients survive is the difficulty to detect it in earlier stages. The severity of the disease exposes itself at a time when it is too late most of the times. Medical experts are trying extremely hard to figure out an outright way of detecting this horrifying ailment in the initial stages. A recent effort, which involved researchers from various parts of the world, seems to have given birth to a vaccine that might help in solving this problem to some extent.

Scientists from the universities of Munich, Geneva, Bayreuth, and Freiburg joined forces with AMSilk, the Biotech Company which invented the Biodegradable shoes of Adidas, in order to develop microcapsules from spider silk. A common method to treat cancer is to use a lot of vaccines which enables a human body to counter the disease. A vaccine basically stimulates the immune system of the body to identify and destroy the cancerous cells. Having said that, the efficiency of this method is very low. These spider silk microcapsules strengthen the efficacy of vaccines on the immune system so that there are better chances of survival. Experiments proved that this vaccine impacts the T lymphocytes the most. These cells play an active role in detecting cancer cells.

The human immune system is mainly comprised of two types of cells. T lymphocytes are assigned the duties of detecting cancers and special infectious diseases like Tuberculosis. On the other hand, B lymphocytes have the task of producing antibodies that are needed to defend against various diseases caused by infection. The activation mechanism of T lymphocytes is quite complex in comparison to B lymphocytes as they require a peptide to generate a response. The problem is that this peptide cannot reach the destination if injected alone, as human body destroys it no time. Carole Bourquin, a Specialist in Antitumor Immunotherapies at the Faculties of Medicine and Science of the UNIGE, explained the scenario by saying,

To develop immunotherapeutic drugs effective against cancer, it is essential to generate a significant response of T lymphocytes. To develop immunotherapeutic drugs effective against cancer, it is essential to generate a significant response of T lymphocytes.”

Synthetic spider silk biopolymers were used to create these microcapsules. A transport capsule, in the form of a chain, protects the vaccine peptide from the attack of the antibodies as the biopolymer being used is highly resistant to degradation. The fact that this polymer is non-toxic, light-weighted and biocompatible adds to its utility for this purpose. Thomas Scheibel, a Specialist of Spider Silk from the University of Bayreuth, described it in the following words:

We recreated this special silk in the lab to insert a peptide with vaccine properties. The resulting protein chains are then salted out to form injectable micro-particles.”

Once the capsule is ingested by the patient, these silk micro-particles make sure that the necessary peptide is delivered to the center of the lymph node cells. This increases the immune responses of T lymphocytes which are essential for identifying the part of the body where cancerous cells are located. This will ultimately allow the human body to fight these cells. Bourquin explained the process proudly as he said,

Our study has proved the validity of our technique. We have demonstrated the effectiveness of a new vaccination strategy that is extremely stable, easy to manufacture and easily customizable.

As these spider silk biopolymers have shown great levels of resistance against heat by surviving a temperature of more than 100o C for several hours, they can be used to create several other critical vaccines. According to some researchers, it is very much possible to produce vaccines without adjuvants and cold chains following this discovery. It holds immense value to the medical world, especially in developing countries where preservation of vaccines is a massive problem. Despite all these positive signs, there is one limitation that scientists will need to work on if they want to use this technique against viral diseases. Right now, it is designed for micro-particles like peptides but it must incorporate larger antigens to support those vaccines.

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