Scientists have discovered a new 3D vaccine that could provide a more effective way to harness the immune system to fight cancer as well as infectious diseases.
The vaccine was developed in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Harvard University. New research has shown the vaccine to effectively delay tumor growth in mice.
Cancer is a deadly cancer. Unlike bacterial cells or viruses, cancer cells belong in the body, but are simply mutated and misplaced, causing trouble as they grow.
In order to have more success against cancer, scientists have been trying to develop vaccines that provoke the immune system to recognize cancer cells as foreign to the body and attack them.
Previous research focused on dendritic cell therapies. Dendritic cell therapies are where the white blood cells are removed from a patient’s blood and turned into dendritic cells that are programmed to recognize and destroy the patient’s specific cancer cells. Dendritic cells are cells that patrol the body for harmful pathogens. Although this approach was successful, it is extremely costly and does not work over the long run.
This new 3D technique involves reprogramming immune cells from inside the body using implantable biomaterials.
The vaccine spontaneously assembles into a dime-sized scaffold that creates an infection-mimicking microenvironment after being injected under the ski. The scaffold contains tumor antigens as well as biological and chemical components that are supposed to attract dendritic cells. This vaccine method is capable of recruiting, housing and manipulating immune cells to generate a powerful immune response against cancer.
This new 3D vaccine is made up of many microsized, porous silica rods submersed in liquid. This new vaccine would prevent patients from having to undergo surgery to implant the scaffold.
Experts hail this new discovery as an impressive ability to harness the natural behavior of dendritic cells to elicit a strong immune response.
The 3D injectable scaffold is currently being tested in mice as a potential cancer vaccine. Scientists hope that it can soon be applied to human patients.