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Ingredients that makes vaccine more effective

Date: 03 October 2020 Tags: Miscellaneous


Scientists have found an ingredient that makes a vaccine more effective through testing molecules that self-assemble into larger structures.



Many vaccines include ingredients called adjuvants that help make them more effective by eliciting a stronger immune response. Identifying potential adjuvants has just got easier.



  • The team of chemists and biologists found a molecule that, when added to a vaccine, strengthens the immune response just as well as a commonly used adjuvant.

  • Vaccine adjuvants are an essential part of clinically used antigen vaccines, such as influenza, hepatitis, and cervical cancer vaccines.

  • Adjuvants generate a robust and long-lasting immune response, but the ones currently in use, like aluminum salts and oil-in-water emulsions, were developed in the 1920s and we don’t precisely understand how they work.

  • The new adjuvant was discovered by screening a library of 8,000 small molecules for their ability to self-assemble.

  • Molecular self-assembly is the spontaneous self-organization of molecules through non-electron-sharing bonds.

  • This is a well-known concept in materials science that is also employed by living organisms to perform complex biological functions.

  • Scientists hypothesized that structures that come together through molecular self-assembly might mimic structures in pathogens, like viruses, stimulating a similar immune response.

  • The team found 116 molecules that can self-assemble and then screened them for the ability to increase interleukin-6 expression by macrophages.

  • Macrophages are immune cells that detect and ‘eat up’ pathogens circulating in the body. They also release proteins, such as interleukin-6, that activate other immune cells.

  • The research led to the discovery of a molecule called cholicamide. This molecule self-assembled to form a virus-mimicking structure that is engulfed by macrophages and similar immune cells. 

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