Nanotechnology for the delivery of vaccines

  • Alexander Wilkinson

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Liposomes offer an ideal platform for the delivery of subunit vaccines, due to their versatility and flexibility, which allows for antigen as well as immunostimulatory lipids and TLR agonists to become associated with these bilayered vesicles. Liposomes have the ability to protect vaccine antigen, as well as enhance delivery to antigen presenting cells, whilst the importance of cationic surface charge for delivery of TB subunit vaccines and formation of an ‘antigen depot’ may play a key role in boosting cell-mediated immunity and Th1 immune responses. The rational design of vaccine adjuvants requires the thorough investigation into the physicochemical characteristics that dictate the function of a liposomal adjuvant. Within this thesis, physicochemical characteristics were investigated in order to show any effects on the biodistribution profiles and the ensuing immune responses of these formulations.
Initially the role of liposome charge within the formulation was investigated and subsequently their efficacy as vaccine adjuvants in combination with their biodistribution was measured to allow the role of formulation in vaccine function to be considered. These results showed that cationic surface charge, in combination with high loading of H56 vaccine antigen through electrostatic binding, was crucial in the promotion of the ‘depot-effect’ at the injection site which increases the initiation of Th1 cell-mediated immune responses that are required to offer protection against tuberculosis. To further investigate this, different methods of liposome production were also investigated where antigen incorporation within the vesicles as well as surface adsorption were adopted. Using the dehydration-rehydration (DRV) method (where liposomes are freeze-dried in the presence of antigen to promote antigen encapsulation) and the double emulsion (DE) method, a range of liposomes entrapping antigen were formulated. Variation in the liposome preparation method can lead to antigen entrapment within the delivery system which has been shown to be greater for DRV-formulated liposomes compared to their DE-counterparts. This resulted in no significant effect on the vaccine biodistribution profile, as well as not significantly altering the efficacy of cationic liposomal adjuvants. To further enhance the efficacy of these systems, the addition of TLR agonists either at the vesicle surface as well as within the delivery system has been displayed through variation in the preparation method.
Anionic liposomal adjuvants have been formulated, which displayed rapid drainage from the injection site to the draining lymph nodes and displayed a reduction in measured Th1 immune responses. However, variation in the preparation method can alter the immune response profile for anionic liposomal adjuvants with a bias in immune response to Th2 responses being noted. Through the use of high shear mixing and stepwise incorporation, the efficient loading of TLR agonist within liposomes has been shown. However, interestingly the conjugation between lipid and non-electrostatically bound TLR agonist, followed by insertion into the bilayer of DDA/TDB resulted in localised agonist retention at the injection site and further stimulation of the Th1 immune response at the SOI, spleen and draining lymphatics as well as enhanced antibody titres.
Date of Award9 Jan 2014
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorYvonne Perrie (Supervisor)


  • tuberculosis
  • biodistribution
  • liposome
  • vaccine adjuvant
  • immune response

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