Researchers are developing a novel synthetic polio vaccine to combat the debilitating disease.
Scientists from the UK and US are using a technology that helped in the design of a new synthetic vaccine to fight the foot and mouth disease virus (FMDV) to target the virus that causes polio.
The novel vaccine would provide a powerful weapon in the fight to rid the world of polio, and this project is being funded by a 438,000 pounds grant from the World Health Organisation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
The synthetic vaccine is currently being engineered in collaboration with Professor Dave Stuart at the UK’s national synchrotron science facility, Diamond Light Source, and the University of Oxford, and colleagues.
The team’s hope is to create a vaccine that does not contain the viral genome but instead ‘mimics’ the structure of the live virus.
Such a vaccine would be quicker, easier and safer to produce, researchers said.
Even after the apparent global elimination of poliomyelitis it will be necessary to continue vaccination as a precaution against reintroduction of the virus from hidden sources, such as rare chronically infected carriers.
A synthetic vaccine would fulfil this role without the inherent danger of accidental release of virus associated with the production of current vaccines.
Eventually such vaccines could pave the way to completely eliminating the necessity to vaccinate.
“We’ve begun the task of gathering crystal structures and electron microscopy images that will tell us what we need to know to stabilise the shell of the virus and engineer a strong vaccine that has the ability to bring about the desired immune response in humans,” said Stuart, Life Sciences Director at Diamond Light Source, and Professor of Structural Biology at Oxford University.
“Following on from the success we’ve had with the foot and mouth disease vaccine, we aim to transfer the approach to vaccines for other viruses including polio. Early results with polio are very promising, with synthetic particles being produced and evidence of successful stabilisation,” said Stuart.
“Using the latest technology, we can engineer vaccines that are billions of times smaller than a pinhead, we can track viruses as they interact with living cells, and we can glean the detailed information required to look at pathogens and then design better therapies against them,” Stuart added.