The mRNA technology we used against COVID could help us finally beat malaria


The scientific community’s response to COVID-19 has been nothing short of Herculean. against the new virus in less than a year – – and we have to thank the technology based on mRNA. The discovery that instead of injecting ourselves with semi-dead viruses, we can get our bodies to generate an immune response by causing them to produce protein fragments has been a revolution in the field of immunology. As vaccination rates for the current pandemic continue to rise, the medical community is considering turning this powerful genomic weapon against a myriad of other deadly diseases. And .

“The field of vaccines has been forever transformed and forever advanced thanks to COVID-19,” said Dr. Dan Barouch, director of the Center for Virology and Vaccine Research at Harvard Medical School. in March.

According to , some 290 million people are infected with malaria each year and at least 400,000 people die from the disease each year – mainly young children, the elderly and the infirm – making it the most common parasitic disease in the world . Symptoms involve continuous cyclical “fits” – chills and chills followed by fevers followed by chills followed by fevers.

“Safe, effective and affordable vaccines could play an essential role in the fight against malaria”, Dr Robert Newman, Director of WHO Said in 2013. “Despite all the recent progress countries have made and despite important innovations in diagnostics, drugs and vector control, the global burden of malaria remains unacceptable.

Researchers have searched for a malaria vaccine almost since it was first confirmed in 1897. However, progress has been slow and the reasons are “manifold and lie in the complexity of the parasite, which expresses more than 5,000 proteins over the course of its life. different lives. stages, the complex interplay between parasite biology and host immunity, a lack of adequate resources and a lack of effective global cooperation, ”wrote Giampietro Corradin and Andrey Kajava, professors at the University of Lausanne and at the University of Montpellier, respectively, in the journal in 2014.

But is ready to activate this dynamic in his ear. In a report published in the April issue of , Mehreen Datoo, study author and clinical researcher at the Jenner Institute in Oxford, and his team revealed that they had developed a vaccine candidate that demonstrated 77% efficacy after 12 months of inoculation. At least, she did so as part of her Phase IIb trials, which involved more than 450 children, aged 5 to 17 months, living in Burkina Faso. Nicknamed the , this is the first time that such a potential treatment for the disease has reached or exceeded the 75% efficiency target.

“Malaria is one of the main causes of infant mortality in Africa,” said Professor Charlemagne Ouédraogo, Minister of Health of Burkina Faso. in April. “We have supported the trials of a range of new vaccine candidates in Burkina Faso and these new data show that the approval of a very useful new vaccine against malaria may well take place in the years to come. It would be an extremely important new tool to control malaria and save many lives ”.

The results are so encouraging in fact, the researchers (in coordination with ) have already started recruiting for Phase III trials with 4,800 children, aged 5 to 36 months, in four African countries. And we have to thank the mRNA technology.

One of the main advantages of mRNA-based treatments over their conventional drug development counterparts is that the genetic method is generalizable, said Dr Stephen Floor, assistant professor in the Department of Cell and Tissue Biology at UCSF, and principal investigator at the located inside.

National Institute for Research on the Human Genome

“If you’re making a traditional small molecule or an antibody, it takes a lot of optimization and development,” he noted. “And often these rules are not well defined. You can’t say, ‘because this particular molecule worked well on this protein, I’m predicting that this other molecule will work on this associated protein.’ “

DNA – the genetic material that invariably makes more clowns auxiliary to idiocracy every time you all refuse to slip on a jimmy – is made up of double-stranded, thoughtful, connected pairs of amino acids. Basically, the microscopic pieces of meat that tells your offspring’s cells how to make more of themselves, while getting the most out of the crafted ones look as unlike your famous local monarch as possible.

However, with mRNA, “we understand the rules of writing particular sequences that will produce proteins,” Floor continued, although we have yet to fully understand how to tell mRNA to target specific cells. . Fortunately, when it comes to antibodies, precise targeting isn’t necessary because your immune system won’t care where the protein comes from, only whether it registers itself as a foreign threat. “This is the reason it has been so effective for COVID,” he said. “And that’s the reason it’s likely to be effective in many other settings.”

These other contexts are innumerable. Such mRNA-based treatments have already been studied as candidates for everything from influenza to Zika, rabies, tuberculosis, hepatitis B, cystic fibrosis, HIV () – even cancer. , mRNA-based treatment would induce the patient’s cells to build protein fragments that mimic the mutated genetics of a tumor in the same way that the COVID vaccine allowed cells to recreate the virus surface protein peaks , and with the same immune system response.

“MRNA vaccines can be used to target almost any pathogen,” said Dr. John Cooke, medical director of the RNA Therapeutics program at the Houston Methodist Research Institute. AAMC. “You put in the code for a particular protein that stimulates an immune response. … It’s essentially unlimited.

But understand that this is not a quick fix for all human illnesses. They also won’t be developed as quickly as the Moderna and Pfizer COVID vaccines. Researchers have been working on an HIV vaccine for three decades to date with very little progress to show. While mRNA technology may be able to dramatically shorten drug development times, “I don’t think we’ll end up in a situation where every vaccine will be developed in a year,” Dr Florian Krammer of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, warned.

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