Researchers Design Flu Vaccine With Improved Protection From Influenza A Strains

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The results found that the M2e nanoparticle injection could efficiently protect individuals from influenza A viruses.

New study findings announced that researchers have designed a new vaccine to fight influenza A strains, using unchanging influenza A protein fragment and M2e—self-assembling nanoparticles—to allow more engagement in the immune system. The updated immunization was created by Scripps Research because current flu vaccines only provide seasonal protection against targeted changeable proteins on the virus, according to research.

A syringe needle with generic vaccine booster in vial with blank label - mock up copy space - Image credit: MargJohnsonVA | stock.adobe.com

Image credit: MargJohnsonVA | stock.adobe.com

“This experimental vaccine has the potential to protect against diverse seasonal influenza A strains as well as future emergent strains that could cause pandemics,” said Jiang Zhu, PhD, study senior author and an associate professor in the Department of Integrative Structural and Computational Biology at Scripps Research, in a press release.

The study authors noted that the vaccine was involved in animal testing which showed positive and strong outcomes that could provide long-term protection against critical infection from ordinary and novel flu strains.

M2 is impactful in the flu virus life cycle, as it is a protein that is embedded in the outer envelope of flu viruses. The researchers included M2e, a portion of the external layer of M2, in the new vaccine to assess its tolerability to aid an efficient flu vaccine. However, because of the small size of M2e, it became difficult to engage with the immune system.

To mitigate this, researchers Keegan Braz Gomes, PhD, and staff scientist Yi-Nan Zhang, PhD, from the Zhu Lab used a nanoparticle-based form that is intended to attach the vaccine to large nanoparticles and that presents as a real virus to the immune system.

The study authors noted that they tested the vaccine on 10 mice, using M2e from individuals that were infected with influenza A strain, also known as H1N1. All 10 mice were reported to be protected from live H1N1 and H3N2 exposure. However, the unvaccinated mice succumbed to the virus, along with mice that did not receive the nanoparticle-based vaccine.

The M2e nanoparticles were reported to remain present for a few weeks in the mouse lymph nodes, compared to only lasting a few hours among the mice that received the non-nanoparticle infection.

“This suggests a very persistent engagement with the immune system, which we hope will enable our design to overcome the durability issue seen for earlier M2e-targeted vaccines,” said the Zhu Lab, in a press release.

The results found that the M2e nanoparticle injection could efficiently protect individuals from influenza A viruses.

Reference

“Nanoparticle” flu vaccine design shows promise in early tests. EurekAlert!. News release. December 6, 2023. Accessed December 12, 2023. https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/1010348

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