Researchers were able to re-engineer red blood cells and use them as a potential new vaccine delivery platform. McMaster University physicists, chemists, and immunologists have collaborated to change red blood cells to carry viral agents that can safely stimulate the immune system to defend the body against SARS-CoV-2, resulting in a potential new vaccine delivery vehicle.


According to the experts, developing new methods and vaccine technologies is important for managing the pandemic and planning for future outbreaks as the coronavirus evolves and mutates. This new method of immunization, which was published in the journal PLOS ONE, offers a completely novel approach to immunization. SARS-CoV-2 spike proteins embed in red blood cell membranes, forming virus-like particles.


The red blood cells are taken and everything is removed from the inside. Then, to resemble a corona virus, we attach spike proteins to their exterior “explains graduate student Isabella Passos-Gastaldo, the paper’s primary author. These particles, which have been demonstrated in mice to stimulate the immune system and create antibodies, are absolutely safe. Current vaccination delivery techniques frequently result in severe immune system reactions and have short-lived effects.

Origin of this research

The researchers originally disclosed this technology in 2020, when they manipulated red blood cells to distribute medications throughout the body, which might potentially be used to target infections or cure devastating illnesses like cancer or Alzheimer’s.
“This platform makes our own blood cells smart in a variety of ways,” Rheinstadter adds. “It’s a vaccination in this situation. We use our own cells as nano robots within our bodies, and when they detect a sickness, they can attack it.”

Success rate

The researchers discovered that cells may be loaded with a high quantity of viral proteins while causing few adverse effects, making the novel technique more pleasant and successful than current vaccination methods. This methodology is highly successful because this devised mechanism for inducing an immunological response without the need of genetic material, and we can make these particles in a relatively short period of time. The method can be readily changed to create vaccinations for future versions or novel viruses.

Future prospects and researcher’s verdict

“This is the kind of creative, interdisciplinary research that McMaster is known for. It was exhilarating working with physicists, structural biologists and immunologists to design a radically different vaccine platform,” says Dawn Bowdish, Professor of Medicine at McMaster and Canada Research Chair in Aging & Immunity and co-author of the paper.
“Some of the vaccines that have been developed have shown side effects. This delivery platform opens new possibilities for vaccines and therapeutics,” the researcher added.