One generally admires its flexibility and its resistance or its lightness. But today, researchers are interested in other properties. According to them, spider silk could help design more effective vaccines.
To fight against certain infectious diseases such as tuberculosis – or even against cancer -, it is necessary to succeed in activating the T lymphocytes. And it is not an easy task. Because peptides, small pieces of protein used for this, have the unfortunate tendency to be degraded by the body even before reaching their target.
To remedy the problem, researchers have imagined using silk from a spider common to our gardens, the diadem epeeire. This silk – a long chain of light protein, resistant, but especially biocompatible and biodegradable – could be recreated in the laboratory. What allow scientists to integrate a peptide with vaccine properties.
A generalizable technique?
This artificial silk is then rolled up to form injectable nanoparticles. Microparticles able to travel through the body to the heart of lymph node cells. They also seem to withstand high temperatures without damage, saving money on the cold chains usually necessary for transporting and storing vaccines.
A question remains however: is the technique adaptable to the antigens used in standard vaccines against most viral diseases? Because these are of a much larger size than the peptides.