Polymers for medical applications have developed rapidly in recent years and are being used more and more. One of the best-known polymers at present is the stealth polymer polyethylene glycol, or PEG for short. It is always used when something in the body is to be protected from recognition and thus elimination by the immune system - for example, in modified enzymes, in the camouflage of nanotransporters or the recently developed mRNA vaccines against SARS-Cov-2 based on lipid nanoparticles.
However, it is suspected of causing allergic reactions in rare cases. The formation of antibodies is well known and is exacerbated by its intensive use in a variety of ointments, creams or shampoos in our everyday lives. In Jena, competences in the field of material sciences, pharmacy and medicine have been bundled for years within the framework of the Collaborative Research Centre (CRC) PolyTarget in order to push the application of polymers in the field of medicine, especially for the treatment of inflammatory diseases. PEG is a standard polymer in this field, also due to its approval, but it is not without alternative.
Thus, new polymers based on other classes of polymers, for example the polyoxazolines (POx), are also being produced and intensively investigated within the framework of this CRC. They show the same properties as PEG with regard to their good biocompatibility and stealth potential. However, their production is much simpler because, for example, the starting materials used are not toxic. Research and development in the field of alternative polymers thus provides an important contribution to further advancing innovations in the field of nanomedicine and avoiding possible side effects.
An article has now been published in the renowned scientific journal "nature", in which the potentially allergenic properties of PEG in the vaccines against SARS-Cov-2 are addressed and our research for alternatives is taken up.
You can find the complete "nature" article here.