New Manufacturing Method for Vaccines

Guest_Jim_* - December 3, 2012 12:03PM in Science & Technology

Be sure to wash your hands more often now as flu season has started. Also cover when coughing or sneezing. Influenza is a relatively common virus, demonstrated by there being a 'flu season,' but can still be quite dangerous if a patient is not careful. This is why vaccines are developed and distributed to those most at risk of catching the virus and taking ill. Making the vaccines though is not an easy task and can require months, but German researchers may have found a way to speed up the process.

Vaccines work by exposing the body to some characteristic part of the virus. In the case of influenza, it is specific proteins located on the surface of the virus (and not the virus itself; just the proteins). To create the proteins for vaccines, influenza strains are grown in eggs or with cell cultures, before being destroyed to harvest just the proteins, but this is a complex process. The researchers decided to remove the virus from the equation and instead work with a piece of messenger RNA (mRNA) that encodes for just the proteins in question. By injecting just the mRNA into the skin cells of mice, the researchers were able to get the cells to generate the proteins, which then trained the immune system to attack the whole virus, when later exposed.

Previous research has been done that used DNA instead of RNA, but was unsuccessful in humans. Though not tested in humans yet, this research is promising as it works in multiple other species.