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Increasing vaccine thermal stability with PEG-based hydrogels August 24,2022.

Nearly half of all vaccines go to waste due to the strict temperature regulation needed throughout the manufacturing process and vaccine administration, meaning they need to be refrigerated to remain effective. To mitigate this, researchers from ETH Zurich (Germany) in collaboration with Nanoly Bioscience (CO, USA) have developed a new hydrogel to package vaccines and increase their thermal stability.


The hydrogel is based on a biocompatible synthetic polymer, polyethylene glycol (PEG), that acts like a molecular Tupperware, keeping large complex molecules separated from each other, like the proteins found in vaccines, antibodies and gene therapies.


In vaccines, the PEG-based hydrogel encapsulates proteins enabling them to withstand a higher range of temperature fluctuations by preventing them from aggregating together. Without the packaging, cold chain vaccines tend to withstand a temperature range of 2°C – 8°C (35°F – 45°F). With this reversible packaging system, the temperature range is increased to 25°C – 65°C (75°F – 150°F).


The hydrogel capitalizes on dynamic covalent bonds, creating a reversible platform that can easily release the proteins from their Tupperware box by adding a simple sugar solution. This means vaccines can be easily recovered at their point of use.  


The PEG-based hydrogel could yield economic benefits by reducing the costs and health risks that are associated with cold supply chains and mean more funding can be put towards the production of vaccines.  


Before this molecular Tupperware can be rolled out, safety studies and clinical trials are needed. Until then, the technology could be used in a variety of ways including transporting heat-sensitive enzymes used in cancer research or protein molecules in research lab settings.  



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