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Friday, May 18, 2012

A new way to store vaccines

U.S. Army Major Jean Muderhwa of the Brooke Army Medical Center/San Antonio Military Medical Center has developed a ‘microemulsion’ that he hopes will prove useful in stockpiling vaccines.  He presented his findings at the Experimental Biology 2012 meeting.

An emulsion is a mixture of liquids that don’t ordinarily mix. The application of energy causes one liquid to form stable droplets that are dispersed throughout the other liquid. For example, many cosmetics contain a mixture of oil and water, plus other ingredients. Milk is an emulsion of butterfat globules and water. Microemulsions simply contain very tiny droplets that are less than 100 nm across.

Muderhwa’s micoremulsion is composed of five ingredients: water, oil, glycerol, surfactants (chemicals that lower the surface tension of liquids making them more ‘mixable’) and a protein adjuvant, a molecule that makes a body’s response to vaccines more potent. In other words, the emulsion is specifically designed to carry vaccines.

The system hasn’t been tested for vaccines yet, although microemulsions are currently used to deliver other kinds of drugs. If all goes well, this new concoction can be used not only for the delivery of vaccines, but also for long term storage until the vaccines are needed.

US Army Major Jean M. Muderhwa's microemulsion vaccine carrier.
Courtesy of US Army Major Jean M. Muderhwa