Manuel Almagro Rivas
Hard Science

Researchers Design Programmable RNA Vaccines

Hopefully, one day, it will work in humans too.

Arra Dianne HifarvaJuly 13th 2016
News
Manuel Almagro Rivas

Customizable Vaccine

Engineers from MIT have developed a vaccine that is easy to customize and can be manufactured in just a week. This also makes it easier for the vaccine to be distributed during outbreaks. The researchers worked on designing vaccines against Ebola, H1N1 influenza, and Toxoplasma gondii. When they tested the vaccines on mice, all showed 100 percent immunization.

CreditL National Cancer Institute
Credit: National Cancer Institute

The vaccines are made of messenger RNA strands that can be designed for any viral, bacterial or parasitic protein. These are then packaged into molecules that transport these RNA into the cells where the translation into protein needed to evoke a response from the host’s immune system happens.

Better than Traditional

Traditional vaccines are usually made up of an inactivated virus or pathogen. These types of vaccines take too long to be manufactured and some are too risky to be used for some diseases. Some vaccines also need enhancers because the response they invoke from the immune system is not strong enough. RNA vaccines, on the other hand, cause a stronger reaction from the host’s immune system.

The team decided to package the RNA into nanoparticles made from dendrimer. The advantage of using this material is that it can be modified for it to form close associations with RNA and the size and pattern of the final structure can also be controlled. A particle size similar to that of viruses could be generated thus allowing the dendrimer-RNA combination to enter cells similar to how previous vaccines work.

The scientists believe that this type of vaccine is much safer than DNA vaccines that are currently being developed because RNA cannot cause mutations. The study is published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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