Mimicking microbial strategies for the design of mucus-permeating nanoparticles for oral immunization
Dealing with mucosal delivery systems means dealing with mucus. The name mucosa comes from mucus, a dense fluid enriched in glycoproteins, such as mucin, which main function is to protect the delicate mucosal epithelium. Mucus provides a barrier against physiological chemical and physical aggressors (i.e., host secreted digestive products such as bile acids and enzymes, food particles) but also against the potentially noxious microbiota and their products. Intestinal mucosa covers 400 m2 in the human host, and, as a consequence, is the major portal of entry of the majority of known pathogens. But, in turn, some microorganisms have evolved many different approaches to circumvent this barrier, a direct consequence of natural co-evolution. The understanding of these mechanisms (known as virulence factors) used to interact and/or disrupt mucosal barriers should instruct us to a rational design of nanoparticulate delivery systems intended for oral vaccination and immunotherapy. This review deals with this mimetic approach to obtain nanocarriers capable to reach the epithelial cells after oral delivery and, in parallel, induce strong and long-lasting immune and protective responses.