"Understanding alum properties will help other vaccines because we are one step deeper into the mechanistic insight of adjuvants, which are essential for human vaccines to work," says Doctor Yan Shi, member of the Snyder Institute of Infection, Immunity and Inflammation.
Alum is a common grocery store staple used in pickling. It is very effective in inducing antibody responses and is the only human vaccine adjuvant approved for large-scale immunization. It has been in use for 90 years and appears in almost all vaccines we receive as without an adjuvant vaccines in general do not work.
"Knowledge provided in this study may help us manipulate alum with additional adjuvant components to direct an attack against major diseases which require a killer T cell response such as HIV, Tuberculosis, and malaria," says Tracy Flach from the Faculty of Medicine and the study's first author.
The research reveals that alum interacts with a group of immune cells called dendritic cells via their cell membrane lipids. Dendritic cells, the sentinel of our immune system, heed the call of alum and move on to activate a group of T cells that control antibody production.
The breakthrough came as the team made use of a cutting edge technology developed in the Faculty of Medicine called single cell force spectroscopy. This technique allowed the team to study individual cells and measure their responses to alum.
MEDICA.de; Source: University of Calgary