'Hybrid' delivery vehicle gives DNA vaccines new potential

Safer and more effective delivery of DNA vaccines--those based on a small part of a microbe's genes--could offer greater protection to the world's population from such diseases as flu, malaria and HIV. And researchers at the University at Buffalo have developed a delivery vehicle that could help push the long-researched class of vaccine into a more prominent position and possibly into the market down the road.

DNA vaccines have long been studied as an alternative to using an entire microbe when inoculating a patient. By isolating specific genes, researchers have been able to overcome some of the challenges associated with typical vaccines such as development costs, effectiveness and safety. And very importantly, they could be used to address diseases for which there is not yet a vaccine.

But the effectiveness of DNA vaccines has been limited in part by the difficulty of delivering enough of the genetic material intact to the right place. To address this delivery challenge, the scientists created a vehicle out of both a bacterial cell and a synthetic polymer--what they are calling a "hybrid." This should more effectively deliver the genes to the nucleus of patients' cells, according to the university, and as shown in mouse tests.

"The hybrid provided a synergistic boost in delivery effectiveness due to its dual nature," lead author Charles Jones said in a statement. "We also determined that it's relatively inexpensive to create and flexible in terms of use. The results thus far are very encouraging."

Blaine Pfeifer

This vehicle, when tailored with specific antigens, could ultimately spur the immune system to fight off diseases like cancer, hepatitis and herpes, among many others.

Co-author Blaine Pfeifer says: "The technology that we're developing could help take immunization to the next level."

- here's the university report
- read the research article