June 28-30, 2021 | 9:00AM EDT | 1:00PM UTC | 3:00PM CEST*
*Program is in development and subject to change
The vaccinology field has recently expanded its scope past infectious disease, to tackle new challenges like cancer and antimicrobial resistance. Thinking even further outside the box, Dr. Francisco Quintana of Harvard Medical School and The Broad Institute has taken innovative approaches to vaccine development to a new level. Rather than activating immune responses, Dr. Quintana has flipped the traditional strategy on its head, redesigning nanoparticle vaccine technology to instead dampen immune responses gone awry in the context of autoimmune and autoinflammatory diseases.
The powerful new approach reprograms immune responses that are wrongly attacking host tissues. This is accomplished with two key nanoparticle ingredients: 1) in place of adjuvants that stimulate immune responses, Dr. Quintana deploys a special molecule that triggers immune-suppressive transcriptional programing and 2) any antigen of interest. Once injected into the animal, these nanoparticles are ingested by dendritic cells within lymph nodes, inducing a tolerogenic phenotype that instructs T-cells not to attack cells with that antigen.
Striking out against multiple sclerosis (MS), a neurodegenerative disease caused by autoimmune destruction of nerve cells, Dr. Quintana has designed tolerogenic nanoparticles containing the myelin antigen to re-educate pathogenic immune responses. In mouse models of MS, the nanoparticle treatment induced regulatory T-cells that traveled to the brain. Once there, these T-cells orchestrated the transformation of the local microenvironment, correcting the pathological behavior of astrocytes and microglia that were driving neuroinflammation. Miraculously, the approach both prevented and even reversed disease progression. For a fatal disease with no cure, and few treatment options, this is a groundbreaking result.
Quintana has adapted the versatile platform to treat a variety of autoimmune diseases with great success, including MS and type-I diabetes, and even inflammatory conditions like inflammatory bowel syndrome and rheumatoid arthritis. Many of these candidates are now ready to enter clinical trials, offering hopes of vaccination against diseases that have challenged modern medicine for decades.
Watch the full KSQA interview:
Read more on PubMed:
Tolerogenic nanoparticles suppress central nervous system inflammation
Hear more about Dr. Quintana’s work in his presentation at the eSymposia on Neurodegenerative Diseases: Genes Mechanisms and Therapeutics, now available On Demand.