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MIT scientists use a new type of nanoparticle to make vaccines more powerful

Study shows metal-organic particles can both deliver vaccines and act as an adjuvant to generate a strong immune response at a lower dose.

Many vaccines, including vaccines for hepatitis B and whooping cough, consist of fragments of viral or bacterial proteins. These vaccines often include other molecules called adjuvants, which help to boost the immune system’s response to the protein.

Most of these adjuvants consist of aluminum salts or other molecules that provoke a nonspecific immune response. A team of MIT researchers has now shown that a type of nanoparticle called a metal organic framework (MOF) can also provoke a strong immune response, by activating the innate immune system — the body’s first line of defense against any pathogen — through cell proteins called toll-like receptors.

In a study of mice, the researchers showed that this MOF could successfully encapsulate and deliver part of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, while also acting as an adjuvant once the MOF is broken down inside cells.

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