New Programmable RNA Nanoparticle Vaccine Discovered By MIT

The researchers in MIT discovered a new vaccine that is made up of programmable RNA nanoparticles to fight against the Zika virus.

In one of the previous posts in “Nanotechnology: Bringing Earth In Your Hands“,  we discussed nanotechnology and its application.We covered its application in the medical field in brief. Now, its implementation can be seen in this field. This vaccine has some strands of genetic material called messenger RNA that are packaged into nanoparticles to deliver the RNA strands into the cell. Inside the cell, it is translated into proteins for generating an immune response against the virus from the host but the RNA does not integrate and replicate itself like the viruses that make it safer than the normal vaccine.

What Are Programmable Vaccines?

MIT approaches first towards the programmable vaccines because they induce the host cells that can copy and reproduce the proteins encoded by the RNA.This generates a stronger immune response against any disease.The RNA sequence can be packaged into nanoparticles made from a branched molecule based on fractal patterned dendrimers.This RNA dendrimer induces itself and folds itself many times to produce a spherical particle that is about 150 nm in diameter which is exactly the size of the virus which allows the particles to enter into the cells in the same way as the virus enters.These types of vaccines are generated to fight against diseases like H1N1 influenza, Ebola and much more.These vaccines have experimented against the Zika virus.

Zika virus became a major disease in Brazil in the recent years increasing the death rates.So, the researchers in MIT approached to programmable vaccines rather than approaching the use of a weakened virus to create vaccines.They programmed the RNA nanoparticle with the sequences of the encoded virus. Inside the body, it replicates itself inside the cells and instructs the cells to produce the proteins.

Results And Response Of The Experiment:

While developing and experimenting vaccines the researchers desire to generate a response from both sides of the immune system:-

  1.  The adaptive side that is mediated by the T cells and the antibodies
  2.  The innate side that is necessary or amplifying the adaptive response

To test the result of the generation of strong T cell response, researchers can remove the T cells from the body and then measure the response against the fragments of viral proteins.To test the vaccines, researchers used to purchase protein fragments and then test T cells on them which was a time-consuming process and was also expensive. But now MIT researchers have been able to overcome this problem because they have generated much amount of T cells from the vaccinated mice that could satisfy the above problem and also this has helped them to find a sequence of 8 amino acids called epitope that can activate the T cells.

Future Scope:

Now, the major and main focus of this research is to generate cancer vaccines that can program the immune system to fight against the tumour cells but to do that one should know where to target.This research of programmed RNA would lead to the invention of new vaccines which could be used for the treatment of diseases like AIDS, cancer etc whose cure is not available at present time and the more research in this field may lead to better treatment of diseases in the future.

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