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Synthetic vaccines can combine a portion of the target microbe, known as the "antigen", along with an adjuvant that stimulates the immune system. However, administering the adjuvant and antigen together to the appropriate immune cells is challenging.
The emerging field of DNA nanotechnology may offer a solution. The design freedom of DNA nanostructures allows the developer of a vaccine to tailor the interaction of the nanostructure with both selected immune cell populations and non-target cells, creating a selective response.
In their report published online July 3, 2012, in the journal Nano Letters ("A DNA Nanostructure Platform for Directed Assembly of Synthetic Vaccines"), a team of researchers from Arizona State University demonstrated that the nanostructures of DNA with adjuvants attached could elicit the production of antibodies against a model antigen in mice. So far, the potential of DNA nanostructures to act as vaccines has only been demonstrated in vitro.