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Hum Vaccin Immunother. 2015;11(2):477-88. doi: 10.1080/21645515.2014.1004026.

Advances in aluminum hydroxide-based adjuvant research and its mechanism.

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a Division of Hepatitis Virus Vaccines; National Institutes for Food and Drug Control; Key Laboratory of the Ministry of Health for Research on Quality and Standardization of Biotech Products ; Beijing , PR China.


In the past few decades, hundreds of materials have been tried as adjuvant; however, only aluminum-based adjuvants continue to be used widely in the world. Aluminum hydroxide, aluminum phosphate and alum constitute the main forms of aluminum used as adjuvants. Among these, aluminum hydroxide is the most commonly used chemical as adjuvant. In spite of its wide spread use, surprisingly, the mechanism of how aluminum hydroxide-based adjuvants exert their beneficial effects is still not fully understood. Current explanations for the mode of action of aluminum hydroxide-based adjuvants include, among others, the repository effect, pro-phagocytic effect, and activation of the pro-inflammatory NLRP3 pathway. These collectively galvanize innate as well as acquired immune responses and activate the complement system. Factors that have a profound influence on responses evoked by aluminum hydroxide-based adjuvant applications include adsorption rate, strength of the adsorption, size and uniformity of aluminum hydroxide particles, dosage of adjuvant, and the nature of antigens. Although vaccines containing aluminum hydroxide-based adjuvants are beneficial, sometimes they cause adverse reactions. Further, these vaccines cannot be stored frozen. Until recently, aluminum hydroxide-based adjuvants were known to preferentially prime Th2-type immune responses. However, results of more recent studies show that depending on the vaccination route, aluminum hydroxide-based adjuvants can enhance both Th1 as well as Th2 cellular responses. Advances in systems biology have opened up new avenues for studying mechanisms of aluminum hydroxide-based adjuvants. These will assist in scaling new frontiers in aluminum hydroxide-based adjuvant research that include improvement of formulations, use of nanoparticles of aluminum hydroxide and development of composite adjuvants.


adjuvants; aluminum compounds; aluminum hydroxide; aluminum phosphate; immune response; inflammasomes; vaccine

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