WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF
A new vaccine that hijacks your DNA in order to create Coronavirus-like particles to build resistance is a revolutionary idea.
Thanks to the emergence of Coronavirus, Covid-19, there’s been the equivalent of a new arms race to develop an effective vaccine to counter it that, so far, has produced nothing even though companies and governments have the best experts and technologies on the case, from AI’s and supercomputers that are hunting for viable vaccine compounds and for ways to attack the Coronaviruses’ distinctive protein spikes, through to new forms of RNA vaccines that have never been trialled before and even temporary vaccine-like “shields” courtesy of the US Military’s bleeding edge research arm DARPA.
Now though a team of scientists is working on an experimental vaccine that steps crazy up a gear and hijacks your DNA to build up resistance to the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
While it’s still a work in progress the idea is to insert genetic material into a patient’s body that hijacks the patient’s own cellular machinery and gets it to churn out little virus-like particles, explains lead researcher and University of Waterloo pharmaceutical expert Roderick Slavcev.
“The concept of a DNA based vaccine is that the genetic cargo has to be delivered to cells first after which the gene is expressed and can generate the proteins of interest,” says Slavcev, “in this case the proteins making up a viral shell called a virus-like particle.”
Slavcev and his team are trying to figure out how to engineer those virus-like particles to end up looking almost exactly like a harmless version of the coronavirus. If they sort out that remaining challenge, then the recipient’s immune system can go into overdrive and build up a resistance to the real coronavirus.
“When complete, our DNA-based vaccine will be administered non-invasively as a nasal spray that delivers nanomedicine engineered to immunize and decrease COVID-19 infections,” Slavcev said in a press release on the vaccine project, which hasn’t yet been peer-reviewed or accepted into an academic journal.
Just like a virus hijacks your cells and forces them to churn out more copies of the virus, this vaccine is expected to automate the production of those particles, which B-cells and T-cells, the biological hunter-seekers of the immune system, can use to ready themselves to fight the real-deal coronavirus.
The main difference between this sort of DNA-based vaccine and a traditional one says Slavcev is that it relies on the person’s cells to create the mock virus instead of merely exposing them to an inert version of the real virus.
“Personal genetics only has to do with how the vaccine is presented,” added Slavcev, regarding the decision to develop a DNA-based vaccine. “There is some variation between individuals and populations, but in this case the DNA is just to improve immune response and make it mimic a viral infection as closely as possible to stimulate the most effective immune response.”