Inhalable Vaccine in development at NC State University

ByLaura Browne via WTVD logo
Friday, July 15, 2022
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An inhalable COVID-19 vaccine developed by North Carolina State University professor Ke Cheng and associates at UNC-Chapel Hill and Duke University demonstrated positive results in hamster test subjects.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- An inhalable COVID-19 vaccine developed by North Carolina State University professor Ke Cheng and associates at UNC-Chapel Hill and Duke University demonstrated positive results in hamster test subjects.

According to Cheng, the vaccine reduced the viral load of the disease and aided in protecting the rodents' lungs. Researchers administered two doses of the inhalable vaccines to the animals, then exposed them to the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

"As we can see the SARS-CoV-2 will do lots of damage to the lung," said Cheng, professor of regenerative medicine. "What we found out is that after this vaccination, the animals' lungs are well protected."

The inhalable vaccine stands out from other injectable vaccines as it directly enters the lungs. Because the respiratory tract is covered in mucus, the vaccine will bring about mucosal immunity, which involves antibodies produced in the mucus barrier, often serving as one of the first lines of defense against infection.

This remains beneficial, Cheng said, since COVID-19 primarily affects the respiratory system.

"The production of these antibodies in the mucosal barrier may also be more effective in combating this disease, because we know that mostly the COVID-19 -the SARS-CoV-2 virus is from a respiratory tract," Cheng said.

Ingesting the inhalable vaccine will also induce antibodies in the blood, bringing about systemic immunity.

"The systemic immunity is promoted by the vaccines we're using these days, but they're not very good at promoting mucosal immunity, which is really the first barrier of defense," Cheng said. "And our inhalable vaccine can do both which can have a fast effect and also have a first barrier protection against SARS-CoV-2."

Cheng said the inhalable vaccine, administered through an inhaler, continues to remain promising in terms of accessibility as it would possibly not require a medical professional and could be potentially self-administered.

The vaccine additionally stays shelf-stable for up to three months when kept at room temperature.

Rather than making use of mRNA like other COVID-19 vaccines, this vaccine makes use of the receptor binding domain, part of the virus's spike protein, to allow the body to become aware of the virus and produce antibodies against it, Cheng said.

According to Cheng, the receptor binding domain is placed on the surface of the exosome, a vesicle which will carry the virus's protein into the body.

Moving forward, Cheng says additional safety and efficacy testing is required for the vaccine. Additionally, the manufacturing process must be streamlined to meet a larger scale.

Cheng encouraged those feeling hesitant about vaccination to get vaccinated.