Seashells Inspire Drug, Vaccine Development

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Mimicking nature, Australian scientists have developed a protective seashell-inspired capsule to preserve the active biological ingredients needed to create promising new drugs.

Published in the journal Nature Communications, the development overcomes a critical challenge in biomedicine by ensuring important proteins remain effective in hostile environments.

The new shell developed by CSIRO, The University of Adelaide and the Australian Synchrotron, could hold the key to cost-effectively preserving and extending the shelf-life of vaccines in extreme temperatures without refrigeration.

This could significantly benefit healthcare in developing countries where life-saving vaccines often need to be transported over long distances to reach everyone who needs them.

“Like a house is made of bricks, living organisms are made up of proteins which play a critical role in the body,” CSIRO lead researcher Dr Kang Liang said.

“But unlike bricks, proteins are fragile and their function alters or perishes when exposed to heat, pressure and pollutants.

“Inspired by a sea urchin’s outer shell, which supports and protects its fragile body, we’ve come up with a porous shell that grows around important proteins such as enzymes to protect them on the inside.

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