Infectious diseases continue to affect and kill a multitude of people worldwide, with vaccination seen as the most powerful weapon against this threat. Vaccines are prepared from weakened forms of the agent, its toxins, or its surface proteins. The vaccine works by stimulating the immune system into recognizing the agent as a threat and to destroy it.
Once the initial pathogenic attack is controlled it is very important that the immune system recognizes and destroys any microorganisms associated with this agent in the future. Consequently, identifying the peptide sequences that trigger this protective immune response and manufacturing synthetic versions of these as the vaccine would be a desirable alternative.
Theoretically, this would mean less risk of mutation or reversion and less risk of contamination by pathogenic or toxic substances. Additionally, chemical manipulation of the peptide structure could possibly increase thermostability and decrease side effects.
Easy storage for synthetic vaccine
Now, a study led by researchers at the University of Bristol develops a synthetic vaccine that can be stored at warmer temperatures, removing the need for refrigeration. The team states their vaccine, developed for the mosquito-borne virus Chikungunya, was engineered using a synthetic protein scaffold. The synthetic booster may also have the potential to revolutionize the way vaccines are designed, produced, and stored. The opensource study is published in the journal of Science Advances.
Previous studies show it is hoped due to the ease in sequencing new strains and serotypes of microorganisms, synthetic vaccines could be rapidly modified to generate strain-specific responses. Despite this, the approach is not without difficulties as often the antigen epitope, a region on the surface of an antigen capable of eliciting an immune response, is composed of various parts of the protein sequence coming together to build a three-dimensional structure.
Therefore, the modeling of these structures will be needed to generate the correct antigenic site synthetically. The current study uses Oracle’s cloud infrastructure to model and build a self-assembling protein-based scaffold engineered to facilitate multiple antigenic epitopes.
The current study develops a protein yielding a multimeric particle resembling a virus containing no genetic material inside, rendering it completely safe. Results show the particle is incredibly stable even after months, without refrigeration, and is easy to modify and produce in high yields. Data findings show the particle can accommodate hundreds of epitopes, same or different, providing vast opportunity to fight multiple diseases in one sitting.
Transported without refrigeration
The lab states their vaccine candidate is easy to manufacture, extremely stable and elicits a powerful immune response. They go on to add it can be stored and transported without refrigeration to countries and patients where it is needed most. They conclude a wide range of applications in biomedical research will benefit from this exceptionally versatile multiple epitope platform.
The team surmises they have developed a self-assembling, multiple epitope synthetic vaccine system stored at warmer temperatures. For the future, the researchers state their synthetic vaccine exhibited promising results in animal studies, setting the stage for a future vaccine to combat Chikungunya disease.
Source: University of Bristol
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Michelle is a health industry veteran who taught and worked in the field before training as a science journalist.
Featured by numerous prestigious brands and publishers, she specializes in clinical trial innovation--expertise she gained while working in multiple positions within the private sector, the NHS, and Oxford University.