Vaccines represent one of the most effective means of preventing infectious disease.
They have saved millions of lives, but nobody likes getting a shot. That’s why researchers are trying to develop oral vaccines.
In addition to avoiding needles, oral vaccines can generate a broader immune response by stimulating immune cells within the mucus layer of the intestine to produce a special class of antibody called immunoglobulin A (IgA).
University of California San Diego scientists Dr. Joseph Wang, Dr. Liangfang Zhang and their colleagues wondered if they could use magnesium particles as tiny motors to deliver an oral vaccine against the bacterial pathogen Staphylococcus aureus.
When coated over most of their surfaces with titanium dioxide, magnesium microparticles use water as fuel to generate hydrogen bubbles that power their propulsion.
To develop the oral vaccine, the team coated magnesium micromotors with red blood cell membranes that displayed the Staphylococcal α-toxin, along with a layer of chitosan to help them stick to the intestinal mucus.
Then, the researchers added an enteric coating that protects drugs from the acidic conditions of the stomach.
When given orally to mice, the micromotors safely passed through the stomach, and then the enteric coating dissolved, activating the motors.
Imaging of mice that had been given the vaccine showed that the micromotors accumulated in the intestinal wall much better than non-motorized particles.
The micromotors also stimulated the production of about ten times more IgA antibodies against the Staphylococcal α-toxin than the static particles.
“Our work provides a proof-of-concept highlighting the benefits of active oral delivery for vaccine development, opening the door for a new set of applications, in which biomimetic motor technology can provide significant benefits,” the scientists said.
The study was published in the journal Nano Letters.