A new article in Trends in Immunology by a leading researcher in the bioinorganic chemistry of aluminum, Keele University's Dr. Christopher Exley, explains how aluminum adjuvants work in boosting the immune response to vaccination.
Adjuvants are used in vaccinations to improve the efficacy of the vaccine. They enhance the immune response to the vaccine. For almost 80 years the most common form of clinically approved adjuvant has been aluminum salts. They are used in the majority of vaccines today including vaccines against cervical cancer (HPV), hepatitis, polio, tetanus, diptheria and seasonal flu amongst many others. In spite of the widespread use of aluminum-based adjuvants there is very little understanding of how they actually work.
A recent flurry of research papers purported to explain their mode of action though it quickly became clear that the story was still significantly confused.
The opinion article by Exley -- Reader in Bioinorganic Chemistry at The Birchall Centre, Keele University in Staffordshire -- in the review journal has explained the likely mode of action of aluminum adjuvants in the context of both the bioinorganic chemistry and immunobiology of aluminum. It has helped to explain why previous suggestions as how aluminum adjuvants work are probably not applicable to the clinically approved aluminum adjuvants used in human vaccination programs.
In doing so, the article highlights the potential for aluminum and aluminum salts to stimulate the immune system and makes some reference to the possible role of aluminum adjuvants in vaccine-related diseases. The latter, though their etiologies are largely unexplained, seem often to be linked to aluminum adjuvants.
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