RNA molecules boost vaccine effectiveness

October 8, 2008
Krishnendu Roy prepares a suspension of the vaccine in the lab while Ankur Singh stands by. Photo: Beverly Barrett

(PhysOrg.com) -- A novel delivery system that could lead to more efficient and more disease-specific vaccines against infectious diseases has been developed by biomedical engineers at The University of Texas at Austin.

The findings use specific ribonucleic acid (RNA) molecules to significantly bolster a vaccine's effectiveness while tailoring it based on the type of immune response that is most desirable for a particular disease, says Krishnendu Roy, associate professor of biomedical engineering and lead investigator on the study.

Roy and his team, which included his graduate student Ankur Singh and collaborators at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, achieved their results during a two-year study primarily working with a DNA-based hepatitis B vaccine. Their work was recently published in Molecular Therapy, the official journal of the American Society of Gene Therapy.

In their studies using mice, immune responses were five to 50 times stronger than with traditional vaccine delivery. The stronger the immune response to a vaccine, the better protection the vaccinated person should have.

Their research uses a novel polymer-based delivery system that consists of micron-sized particles carrying both the vaccine and the RNA to immune cells.

"What we've achieved is a delivery system that provides DNA-based vaccines along with RNA which allows us to significantly enhance the immune response and drive them into a certain direction that is effective against the disease," Roy says.

The team worked with what are called "silencing RNA," which shut down specific proteins in the body.

"By silencing certain proteins in the cells that process your vaccine, we can direct the immune response one way or the other," says Roy, who holds the General Dynamics Endowed Faculty Fellowship.

Physicians want to tailor the immune response because, Singh says, vaccines for parasitic infections may need more of an antibody response, while vaccines for viral infections need more of a cellular response, one that kills the infected cells.

The team's delivery system would work for a wide range of diseases, making it a broad platform for infectious disease vaccines, Roy says.

Roy says mice studies will continue for the next four to five years. If the tests continue to prove successful, testing could begin on primates and eventually humans within six to 10 years.

"Eventually, we want to try it with (vaccines for) cancer and other auto-immune diseases," Singh says.

Other collaborators include research fellow Hui Nie and graduate student Bilal Ghosn of the university, and Hong Qin and Dr. Larry W. Kwak of M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.

Provided by University of Texas at Austin

Explore further: Olympic teams to swim, boat in Rio's filth

Related Stories

Olympic teams to swim, boat in Rio's filth

July 30, 2015

Athletes competing in next year's Summer Olympics here will be swimming and boating in waters so contaminated with human feces that they risk becoming violently ill and unable to compete in the games, an Associated Press ...

Unlocking the rice immune system

July 24, 2015

A bacterial signal that when recognized by rice plants enables the plants to resist a devastating blight disease has been identified by a multi-national team of researchers led by scientists with the U.S. Department of Energy ...

Soybean meal positively affects pigs with PRRSV

July 21, 2015

Porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus (PRRSV) is the most widespread disease in the swine industry. In sows, PRRSV causes reproductive problems during gestation, including abnormal litters or abortions. Growing ...

Single-cell technologies advance the value of genomics

June 24, 2015

Biologists are looking to extract as much information as possible from small amounts of valuable biological material, and to understand biological responses at higher levels of resolution. The Genome Analysis Centre has been ...

Recommended for you

How the finch changes its tune

August 3, 2015

Like top musicians, songbirds train from a young age to weed out errors and trim variability from their songs, ultimately becoming consistent and reliable performers. But as with human musicians, even the best are not machines. ...

Machine Translates Thoughts into Speech in Real Time

December 21, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- By implanting an electrode into the brain of a person with locked-in syndrome, scientists have demonstrated how to wirelessly transmit neural signals to a speech synthesizer. The "thought-to-speech" process ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.