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New vaccine may give lifelong protection from flu

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Posted November 26, 2012

Regular flu vaccine has one significant disadvantage: it only lasts for one season, so you have to renew your biological influenza virus protection “subscription” each year. Not very comfortable, is it? However, scientists from Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut, Tübingen, Germany report that their so-called mRNA vaccine against flu will change the situation.

For those who are concerned about the safety of this vaccine innovation authors promise, that mRNA vaccine has “safety advantages” compared to DNA vaccine.

Now there could be a solution. The mRNA that controls the production of HA and NA in a flu virus can be mass-produced in a few weeks, says Lothar Stitz of the Friedrich-Loeffler Institute in Riems Island, Germany. This mRNA can be turned into a freeze-dried powder that does not need refrigeration, unlike most vaccines, which have to be kept cool.

An injection of mRNA is picked up by immune cells, which translate it into protein. These proteins are then recognised by the body as foreign, generating an immune response. The immune system will then recognise the proteins if it encounters the virus subsequently, allowing it to fight off that strain of flu.

Similar vaccines have been made of DNA that codes for flu proteins. But DNA vaccines seem unlikely ever to be approved, because of worries that they might be incorporated into human DNA, disrupting gene regulation.

That is not a risk with mRNA, which cannot become part of the genome. For this reason, “RNA probably has advantages over DNA as concerns safety,” says Bjarne Bogen of the University of Oslo, Norway, who is working on a DNA vaccine for flu. 

Read more at: NewScientist.com

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