In Switzerland, researchers from the universities of Geneva (UNIGE), Freiburg (UNIFR), Munich, and Bayreuth, in collaboration with the German company AMSilk, developed spider silk microcapsules capable of delivering a vaccine directly to the heart of immune cells that could help fight cancer and certain infectious diseases. This process constitutes an important step towards vaccines that are stable, easy to use, and resistant to the most extreme storage conditions.
Scientists used synthetic spider silk biopolymers—a lightweight, biocompatible, non-toxic material that is highly resistant to degradation from light and heat. “We recreated this special silk in the lab to insert a peptide with vaccine properties,” said Thomas Scheibel, a world specialist of spider silk from the University of Bayreuth who participated in the study. “The resulting protein chains are then salted out to form injectable microparticles.”
The synthetic silk biopolymer particles demonstrate a high resistance to heat, withstanding over 100°C for several hours without damage. In theory, this process would make it possible to develop vaccines that do not require adjuvants and cold chains. An undeniable advantage, especially in developing countries where one of the great difficulties is the preservation of vaccines.