Drs. Cathy Fromen and Gregory Robbins have demonstrated that a particle's surface charge plays a key role in eliciting immune responses in the lungs. The findings, which are published in "Controlled analysis of nanoparticle charge on mucosal and systemic antibody responses following pulmonary immunization," in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, have broad public health implications for improving the accessibility of vaccines.
An inhalable vaccine may eliminate the need for refrigeration, which can not only improve shelf life, but also enable distribution of vaccines to low-resource areas, including many developing countries where there is significant need for better access to vaccines. Using the Particle Replication in Nonwetting Templates (PRINT) technology invented in Professor Joe DeSimone's lab, Fromen and Robbins were able to specifically modify the surface charge of protein-loaded particles while avoiding disruption of other particle features, demonstrating PRINT's unique ability to modify particle attributes independently from one another.
The work has also been featured in publications as diverse as Medical Daily, Lung Disease News, R&D Magazine, Nanowerk, Vaccine News Daily, and Infection Control Today. Dr. Fromen defended her dissertation in July 2014 as a CBE graduate student member of the DeSimone research group. Following graduation she was awarded a University of Michigan President's Postdoctoral Fellowship.
While working on the research, Dr. Robbins was a postdoctoral fellowship in Dr. Jenny Ting's lab at UNC. Dr. Ting is the William Rand Kenan Professor of Microbiology and Immunology in UNC's School of Medicine; she also directs UNC's Center for Translational Immunology, co-directs the UNC Inflammatory Diseases Institute and is the immunology program leader at the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. Dr. DeSimone is the William R. Kenan, Jr. Distinguished Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at NCSU, and Chancellor's Eminent Professor of Chemistry at UNC-Chapel Hill.
This work is supported by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases-funded Center for Translational Research as well as the Defense Threat Reduction Agency.