Scientists from the Scripps Research Institute, Calafornia, US, have created vital ingredients for an effective vaccination against respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) through a new method they have developed for producing artificial proteins.
As reported in Nature on February the 5th, using a ‘rational design’ method researchers produced designer proteins which stimulate the production of the desired virus-neutralizing antibodies for RSV in rhesus macaques.
RSV is one of the leading causes of mortality among infants across the world. With an estimated 7% of all deaths amongst children aged one month to one year, this research offers hope of protection for children as there is currently no licensed vaccine for the virus.
Previously, researchers across the glob have not been able to successfully induced neutralising antibodies as a result of a successfully transplanting protein fragments onto existing protein scaffolds. The inducing effect is produced because researchers have managed to stabilise the transplanted fragment within the scaffold, creating a much better ‘mimic’ of the virus.
In order to achieve this stability researchers created a new system for developing proteins from the ground up in order to ensure that they would offer the required stability. The result is a new piece of software, ‘Fold from Loops’, which allows scientists to fold proteins around fragments of interest.
The potential for this research lies beyond just RSV. HIV and influenza, as well as RSV, are just some viruses that effectively disguise their vulnerable epitopes from our natural defences and traditional vaccines based upon similar principles.
This research offers the potential to develop a vaccine that can offer broad protection against viruses such as HIV through targeting very specific parts of the virus.