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Genetically Engineered Vaccines Might Be the Only Hope for COVID-19 Treatment

Credits: The Scientist Magazine

Researchers around the globe have started working on vaccine development to protect people from COVID-19. But making a vaccine against COVID-19 is the biggest challenge to global health for many reasons. In last month, about eighty institutes and companies started working on gene-based vaccines instead of using traditional methodologies that take years.

The director of virology and vaccine research at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, Dan Barouch says when Chinese researchers exposed the genome of strange, quick-spreading infection at the start of 2020, she realized immediately that nobody would be immune to it.

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The labs anticipated that a commercial vaccine could be accessible for human use by mid-2021. It took five years to reach the Ebola vaccine widespread trials that were fast-tracked. If Barouch and his partners offer a protected and effective concoction in a year, it will be the quickest vaccine development ever. That is a major assuming in any case.

Although a few gene bases vaccines have been created for other viruses, not one has been marketed for human disease.

A conventional vaccine infuses into the body embeds select pieces of infection in cells close to the infusion site. The immune system recognizes molecules on these pieces known as antigens that respond by making antibodies, molecules that can discover the virus anywhere in the body, and kill it. Once this happens, the immune system recollects how to quash the invaders to stop the infection in the future.

Rather labs are moving to gene-based vaccines. Researchers use data from the genome of the infection to make an outline of select antigens. The blueprint is made of RNA or DNA that holds heredity instructions. Then, they inject the RNA or DNA into human cells.

Inovio Pharmaceuticals, headquartered in Plymouth Meeting, Pa., is utilizing the DNA-plasmid approach. Many years before clinical trials were launched by it, focusing on spike proteins of a different coronavirus disease called Middle East respiratory disorder (MERS). Joseph Kim is a chief executive officer who says that the antibody levels in vaccinated people “are as good or better than those we see in blood samples from people who [naturally] recovered from MERS.”

DNA-plasmid vaccines are more stable than RNA vaccines. Common enzymes present in the body can rapidly degrade the RNA vaccines. Warmth can also ruin them. It is mandatory to keep RNA vaccines refrigerated or frozen, which makes logistical obstacles, especially in developed countries. Higher temperature makes DNA-plasmid vaccines more stable.

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Although the time from outbreak to little tests has been faster than it would have been utilizing the egg approach, there is no assurance that the extended trials of genetically engineered vaccines won’t take years. Luckily, COVID-19 doesn’t seem to change as quickly as influenza, recommending that when an effective vaccine created, it might offer protection for a long time.

Companies are increasing the development time for a COVID-19 vaccine to a limited extent by testing vaccines in various animal species at once and in few people. Normally the process is that only one animal will be used at a time, and people later to ensure that symptoms are small, the immune response is large and the disease is vanquished. Lack of time warrants more serious risk.

A virologist and coronavirus expert at Arizona State University, Brenda G. Hogue says that until now, no model vaccine is cleared favorite. But she says the speed of genetic work and the companies are tossing behind it are encouraging. She feels extremely positive.

About the author

Fariha Munir

Fariha is a Microbiology graduate and working as a freelance content writer. Her major areas of interest are nutrition, diseases, research, and medical diagnostic technologies.

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