Millions of dollars could be saved by avoiding additional and unnecessary vaccine doses, not to mention the pain and suffering that could be spared by administering to young children the minimum number of shots necessary.
Early results published in Vaccine contain an exhaustive statistical analysis of the genes coding for the Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) system and other known cytokine/cytokine receptor genes. Dr. Poland's team was the first to single out all DNA base-pair mutations in these genes that have a measurable effect on the immune system's response to measles vaccination.
Any mutations found to play a role in the immune system response to the measles vaccine were identified and cataloged with the study subject's corresponding race.
Called SNPs (pronounced "snips"), these tiny genetic mutations represent the smallest possible change to a person's genetic code and offer clues to explaining why children of some racial and ethnic groups respond better to vaccination than other groups.
Ultimately, Dr. Poland and his team seek to assemble a comprehensive matrix of all the genetic mutations that affect immune response to vaccination on all of the roughly 30,000 human protein-coding genes. Such a library could direct physicians toward predicting exactly how individuals will respond to different vaccines.
"Imagine setting up an array of dominoes the size of a small city, and then depending on where you knock one over, predicting how the rest will fall," says Dr. Poland. "That is what we are trying to do in understanding how single genes, and networks of genes, control and determine our immune responses to vaccines and, hence, whether we are protected or not."
|Contact: Robert Nellis|