UT Southwestern researchers develop new method of delivering vaccines

DALLAS Dec. 28, 2001 Researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas have developed a quicker, more cost-efficient method of delivering dendritic cell-based vaccines a discovery that moves anti-tumor vaccines closer to a practical reality.

Until now, the conventional method to develop these vaccines involved extracting dendritic cells, which initiate immune responses to bacteria, viruses and cancer cells, from the body, then culturing and expanding the cells in a petri dish, loading them with tumor-associated antigens substances the immune system recognize on cancer cells and finally administering them through a vaccine.

Dr. Akira Takashima, professor of dermatology at UT Southwestern, reported in todays Nature Biotechnology that this expensive and time-consuming process has prevented broader clinical applications for dendritic cell-based vaccines.

In the UT Southwestern study, Takashima developed and tested a new procedure in mice that enabled researchers to manipulate dendritic cells in the skin rather than in a petri dish. This new process streamlines the conventional method from 10 days to 24 hours.

Dendritic cells are specialized white blood cells that signal T lymphocytes, critical components of the immune system, to multiply and initiate an immune response. The epidermis, or outermost layer of normal skin, contains immature dendritic cells known as Langherhans cells.

Upon exposure to a topical chemical called a hapten, Langerhans cells mature and migrate from the epidermis to draining lymph nodes. Small molecules called chemokines attract the trafficking cells and help mediate this process.

Lymphatic endothelial cells produce a chemokine known as MIP-3, which binds to a corresponding receptor called CCR7. Langerhans cells utilize CCR7 to migrate from the epidermis to draining lymph nodes, said Takashima. We incorporated this chemokine into a polymer rod so that it could be released in a controlle

Contact: Ione Echeverria
UT Southwestern Medical Center

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