The search for a universal vaccine The fight against influenza is an obsession of many scientists. First of all, it must combine two qualities. On the one hand, being effective against all strains Fluso that there is no need to administer the vaccine every year. This may be the most important quality. But it would also be very useful if it could be applied to infants and immunocompromised people. Thus, their protection against the disease will not depend on the vaccination of those around them. This is a difficult task, but a team of scientists from University of California Riverside took a big step towards achieving this goal.

They have just been published in PNAS results of a study showing a universal vaccine that would be effective against all diseases strains of the same virus. This will not make it effective only against the flu. It can also protect us from other pathogens, such as the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Let’s not forget that in recent years there has been a need to reformulate the vaccine due to new options, Therefore, the most vulnerable people should get vaccinated frequently.

Moreover, the vaccine of these scientists will be safe for vaccination of infants and immunocompromised people. It should be noted that the study was conducted on mice. However, early results have been very promising, so there is great room for optimism.

Why is there no universal vaccine?

regular vaccines They prepare the immune system to attack the microorganism that causes the disease. This can be done in different ways. Previously we used our own weakened pathogen. For example, the polio virus was weakened and inoculated intact so that the immune system recognized its antigens and responded to it. Antigens are usually proteins specific to the pathogen in question that alert the immune system to its arrival.

The first attack begins general antibodiesquick attack with T lymphocytes. But at the same time, through Memory B lymphocytesthey generate much more specific antibodies, which are ready to attack the same pathogen the next time they encounter each other. If this happens quickly, the infection will be eradicated before symptoms appear.

Currently, attenuated viral vaccines are much less common. Typically a protein acting as an antigen, or even a sequence messenger RNA which contains the instructions that allow our cells to make protein.

In any case, the immune system reaction is the same. And this is where the problems begin, why it has not yet been possible to obtain a universal vaccine against influenza or COVID-19.

First of all, these are those proteins that act as antigens. strain- or variant-specific. Or, at best, a few. Therefore, if the virus mutates greatly, the vaccine will no longer be effective because the body has prepared to attack a protein that is no longer there. On the other hand, people with weak immune systems, such as infants or immunocompromised patients, are not prepared for the reaction caused by the vaccine, so their own cells may be damaged. Those of us with competent immune systems have the typical side effects, but for them it’s much more intense. That is why they are not recommended to get vaccinated.

Many vaccines cannot be given to infants. Photo: Dragos Gontariu (Unsplash)

One puncture to hit them all

The universal vaccine these scientists have just introduced solves the previous two problems by RNA interference (RNAi). To understand what this is, we must briefly consider how information from genes becomes effective.

An organism’s genetic material consists of RNA or DNA. For example, in humans it is DNA, and in coronaviruses it is RNA. Regardless of the type, this genetic material contains instructions for the body to function properly. For example, in humans, our genes code for everything from eye color to the ability to produce insulin. But these instructions are not used directly. To be used, they must be converted into proteins by organelles called ribosomes. Ribosomes cannot read genes directly, so they must be transcribed through an intermediary called messenger RNA. If this last step is not taken, the information from genes is useless because it cannot be applied in practice.

This is where RNAi comes into play. These are small molecules that specifically bind to messenger RNA, preventing its transcription. They have many functions and one of them is protection against pathogens.

Re-infection with COVID-19, coronavirus
This vaccine could prevent outbreaks of new coronavirus variants. 1 credit

How does this happen?

Viruses are unable to copy themselves, so when they penetrate the cells they infect, they take over their own. replication machine and they begin to multiply. This process activates the release of specific RNAi in infected cells, which are able to block this replication by inhibiting the synthesis of proteins necessary for it. The problem is that viruses are perfectly prepared and have other proteins that turn off RNAi.

Therefore, these scientists decided to attack using this process. They edited the genetic material of the viruses so that they could not synthesize the proteins that stop RNAi. This was the content of the vaccine, with the help of which it was possible to achieve vaccinated mice produce enough RNAi to then attack the virus if found in a natural infection. In fact, when vaccinated mice were infected with the unmodified virus, the infection stopped. Moreover, mice genetically modified to not produce T or B lymphocytes had the same result, so that part of the immune system was not stimulated.

mother cells
The vaccine was tested on mice, including their offspring.

Also in offspring

It can be seen that the occurrence of an excessive reaction of T and B lymphocytes was impossible, since in this case they do not enter into the equation. This could mean it will be an effective universal vaccine for infants. To verify this, we started pass it on to a group of descendants and indeed, the results were very good.

Overall protection minimum 90 days. As the authors explain in the statement, 9 days in humans is roughly equivalent to 1 year, so we would be talking about protection for 10 years.

But even in this case, logically, this universal vaccine will have to be tested on humans. If results similar to those in mice are obtained, we will be looking at the future of immunization.

Source: Hiper Textual

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