16 March 2018

A pill instead of an injection

British scientists are developing a synthetic vaccine in the form of a pill

Sergey Vasiliev, Naked Science

Vaccination has long proven its effectiveness and safety. Modern vaccines are becoming more reliable and harmless to the body. However, the injection procedure itself has not changed for more than a hundred years and remains as unpleasant and painful as ever. Obtaining vaccines in tablet form would be a big breakthrough, would facilitate mass vaccination, and simply storage and transportation of drugs.

A team of Cardiff University professor Andrew Sewell is working on this task, whose article is published by The Journal of Clinical Investigation (Miles et al., Peptide mimic for influenza vaccination using nonnatural combinatorial chemistry). In it, scientists describe a new original technology for producing synthetic vaccines. Recall that usually such a drug contains "neutralized" viral particles or their fragments, causing an immune response and the production of antibodies. That is why the oral form is usually impossible: these particles are digested.

But the synthetic vaccine includes artificially produced peptides similar to viral ones, but composed not of natural L-amino acids, but of their mirror images, D-amino acids. Studies conducted by Sivell and his colleagues have shown that they are also capable of triggering an immune response, but at the same time they can withstand a journey through the gastrointestinal tract. "Right-sided" proteins are not digested and only gradually can be processed by kidney cells, being excreted from the body.

Unfortunately, so far scientists have only been able to demonstrate the efficiency of their unusual concept in laboratory experiments with cell cultures. There are still years of research ahead before we get a completely new type of vaccine – synthetic, in the form of tablets.

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