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Penn animal study identifies new DNA weapon against avian flu
Date:7/1/2008

stem into mounting a broad response against pandemic flu, including strains to which the immune system was never exposed. Antibodies induced by the vaccine rapidly reached protective levels in all three animal species.

"The synthetic DNA vaccines designed in this study customize the antigen to induce more broad immune responses against the pathogen," says Weiner.

Researchers found evidence of two types of immune responses T lymphocytes and antibodies -- in all three types of animal models. Two types of animal models (mice and ferrets) were protected from both disease and mortality when exposed to avian flu.

To ensure increased DNA delivery, the researchers administered the vaccine in combination with electroporation, a small, harmless electric charge that opens up cell pores facilitating increased entry of the DNA vaccine into cells.

If proven in humans, this research could lead the way to preparing against an outbreak of avian flu. Because these synthetic DNA vaccines are effective against multiple cross strains, vaccines could be created, stockpiled, prior to a pandemic, and thus be delivered quickly in the event of an outbreak, surmise the researchers.

This study has shown other advantages of DNA vaccines. On one hand, killed vaccines, which involve the injection of a dead portion of a virus, are relatively safe but usually effective at producing only a strong cellular immunity. Live vaccines, which involve the injection of a form of a live virus, can have increased manufacturing and some safety issues. Both of these vaccine strategies may have concerns in persons with certain allergies (egg for example) as current manufacturing methods rely on egg based production technologies. On the other hand, DNA vaccines preclude the need to create live tissue samples, which presents risk to those working with the virus.

"DNA vaccines have the benefits and avoid many conceptual negatives of other types of traditional
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Contact: Karen Kreeger
karen.kreeger@uphs.upenn.edu
215-349-5658
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
Source:Eurekalert

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