Silk Vaccines


silkworm and cocoon
In the future, this little guy
could help save lives.

A few months ago, we wrote about how scientists are using Tasar silk to rebuild damaged heart tissue. Now, it looks like scientists are finding out that silk may have some other medical uses as well, this time in vaccines.

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In order to work properly, vaccines must be kept cool. If they warm up too much, the antibodies in them can change shape and become ineffective. Short domestic trips might not cause this sort of problem, but when you’re transporting vaccines across the country or internationally, a “cold chain” of refrigerated transportation becomes necessary. If these vaccines are being brought to rural areas of developing nations, such a cold chain might not be feasible.

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Scientists have found, however, that when they add silk proteins to the vaccines, it keeps the antibodies pinned in place and in their proper shape even if the vaccine gets hot. (Tests were done over a 2-week period at temperatures of over 100°F.)

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Of course, as with all medical breakthroughs, more testing needs to be done on a variety of vaccines before it will be approved for use on humans. Still, there may be a day in the future when our doctors will inject us with silk every time we go in for our booster shots. 

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