Customizable vaccines created at MIT
MIT researchers have developed a novel type of vaccine, one that is rapidly produced and customizable. Instead of using DNA of the pathogen to generate an immune response – which can be risky and produce side effects similar to the illness that the vaccine is meant to prevent – the vaccines created at MIT use messenger RNA (mRNA) sequences. When Dr. Jasdave Chahal and Dr. Omar Khan teamed up, they were able to overcome the difficulties faced by other researches in the past who struggled to make these types of vaccines stable and safe for use. These MIT researchers discovered a way to introduce these mRNA sequences into a nanoparticle called a dendrimer, replicate the sequence, and produce a new structure that is similar in size to most viruses, thus allowing it to interact with the same proteins as the pathogens.
This new research could be instrumental from a public health perspective, because it allows new vaccines to be produced in only seven days. In the event of an outbreak, vaccines may now be available at the height of the epidemic, rather than once it has already run its course. Additionally, since the technique has worked with all pathogens thus far, including H1N1 and Ebola, it is their belief that they would be able to produce a vaccine for a newly discovered pathogen within the same time frame as well.
In addition to this technique being safer, quickly produced, and more versatile in its applications, the researchers have been using the new method to manufacture cancer vaccines that are able to target and destroy tumor cells. This could change the prognosis of cancer diagnoses in the years to come, once the technology is licensed and made available to the public.
Trafton, A. (2016, July 4). Engineers design programmable RNA vaccines. Retrieved from http://news.mit.edu/2016/programmable-rna-vaccines-0704