Sweet corn, the tasty summertime treat that's familiar to many in the Corn Belt, is helping make animal vaccines safer, two Purdue researchers have found.
Biomaterial from sweet corn can be added to animal vaccines as an adjuvant, or substance that stimulates an immune response and improves the performance of the vaccine.
The new adjuvant avoids some drawbacks of adjuvants like oil emulsions and aluminum, says researcher Harm HogenEsch, a professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine. Yuan Yao, an associate professor in the College of Agriculture, is also working on the project.
"The conventionally used oil emulsions and aluminum are poorly biodegradable and can induce a long-lasting inflammatory response at the injection site," HogenEsch said. "Especially for food animals, that's an issue. The corn-derived biomaterial being developed and tested at Purdue may address these issues in a sustainable way."
Yao said the adjuvant biomaterial research is being conducted on a naturally occurring variety of corn.
"The corn that we are using to generate the biomaterial has been planted for decades without being genetically modified," he said. "The base material from which the biomaterial is made is nano-size and quickly digestible like a starch. Our research with small animals shows that these specifically designed biomaterial particulates act as an adjuvant by stimulating the interactions with immune cells."
HogenEsch and Yao are looking to develop the corn-based adjuvant with industry partners.
"When we have talked with companies, the question comes up how it will work in large animals such as pigs, dogs or poultry," HogenEsch said. "We are looking to work with industry partners to do more extensive and expensive research to include more animals and further develop the technology."
Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization has applied for a provisional patent on HogenEsch and Yao's work.
The research has been funded by USDA, the National Science Foundation and Purdue University College of Agriculture's AgSEED funding.