A New Peptide-Based Tool Can Trigger Targeted Cell Immunity

Cell membrane injury or stress causes cells to generate damage-associated molecular patterns (DAMPs) and die via immunogenic cell death (ICD), both of which have powerful immune system boosting effects. Several pathogenic organisms and malignancies use techniques to reduce DAMP emission and avoid immunosurveillance. Inducing and regulating localized ICD in the presence of an antigen has the potential to be both therapeutic and protective.

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DAMP Release

DAMP Release. Credit: Gokhan Gunay

Despite this potential, current ICD-inducing technologies face certain limitations in their effectiveness in specialized applications and off-target toxicity. As a result, there is a growing clinical demand for a tool that can induce controlled ICD while also being efficacious across several cell types to improve the efficacy of current immunotherapy treatments.

Researchers developed a peptide-based tool that aggregates in the cell, causing cell membrane disruption, releasing ICD and DAMPs on numerous cell types, and acting as an adjuvant. The peptide tool adds to the immunity gotten from vaccination.

A study published in the journal Advanced Science by a team of researchers at the University of Oklahoma proposes a novel technique for inducing an adaptive immune response.

A mixture of adjuvants and vaccines creates protective responses in cells

Immune responses are either innate or adaptive. Innate immunity protects against viruses and bacteria that originate outside the body, but it is not specific. The innate immune system absorbs infections and trains cells’ adaptive immunity through this DAMPs response pathway. In other words, adaptive immunity results from the body learning over time and producing antibodies specific to infections.

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The researchers wanted to know how to stress a cell enough to release the damage signals that drive innate immunity to communicate with the adaptive immune response, educating the immune cells in a manner comparable to receiving a vaccination.

Testing the novel technique with an influenza virus protein, the researchers discovered that after 75 days of one injection and one booster injection, protective and therapeutic antibodies—which can target infected cells for immune cell clearance—increased up to 15 times.

They are stimulating a process to teach the immune system how to react to a specific bacteria or pathogen by creating a molecule that can intentionally trigger immunogenic cell death and administering a small part of a pathogen, which the researchers believe has enormous potential for therapeutic applications.

Clinical significance

The first peptide-aggregation induced immunogenic rupture (PAIIR) technique as a vaccination adjuvant is visible in this research. PAIIR is a promising adjuvant with the potential to increase universal protection following influenza HA immunization. The finding provides improved cell immunity, as seen with the influenza virus. Clinically, the results will prove beneficial in using adjuvants and vaccines for pathological treatment.


The use of adjuvants and vaccination seen in this research can help to improve the cells’ immune response. By activating specific and non-specific immune pathways, there is an increase in the prognosis of pathogenic diseases. The new finding can revolutionize microbial and immune therapy.

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Peptide Aggregation Induced Immunogenic Rupture (PAIIR)



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