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Silk Improves Vaccine Longevity

July 17, 2012
Who doesn’t love the feel of silk fabric? Dresses, ties, sofa upholstery- you name it, we can’t keep our hands off it. You may have also heard that silk is an excellent surgical material for sutures, bandages, and implants. But did you know that our favorite fiber may not only patch up the world, but heal it as well?

Here’s the problem we face: Many vaccines need to be kept cold in order to work properly. This isn’t a problem in countries with sophisticated clinics and facilities such as the U.S., but it poses a major concern in developing countries where constant refrigeration just isn’t an option.

But these countries may be where vaccines are most needed. Polio may be all but wiped out in the U.S. due to widespread vaccination, but the disease still plagues people in developing nations.

Silk may offer a solution. Researchers at Tufts University have discovered that silk proteins can “stabilize” certain vaccines, protecting them from heat damage. This means that vaccines could be transported more safely and much less expensively, all around the globe.

Check out the full article from the NPR Health Blog, and also check out a fascinating interview NPR conducted with one of the researchers several years ago.