Scientists have discovered a new way to manipulate how cells function, a finding that might help advance an experimental approach to improving public health: DNA vaccines, which could be more efficient, less expensive and easier to store than traditional vaccines.
Their approach, based on research results published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, improves upon an existing laboratory technique, transfection, widely used to study how cells and viruses work.
Jaquelin Dudley, a professor of molecular biosciences at The University of Texas at Austin, and her team have developed a method for boosting the amounts of certain proteins a host cell produces when genes are delivered by transfection. Coaxing cells to produce novel proteins, such as those associated with viruses, is a key feature of DNA vaccines. Dudley's method causes cells to produce novel proteins at levels 5 to 20 times as high as with previous methods.
The researchers suggest that their finding might lead to better DNA vaccines, a relatively new method of vaccination that health experts say would increase vaccination rates, especially in the developing world. Whereas traditional vaccines train the body to attack viruses by introducing weakened forms of the virus, a DNA vaccine works differently, using a bit of DNA specified by a virus to prompt the production of proteins that lead to immunity.
By boosting the amount of proteins produced by the hosts' cells, Dudley's new method might invoke a stronger immune response in patients receiving a DNA vaccine. And, by making smaller vaccine doses possible, it might also reduce the risk that the patient's immune system would inadvertently attack healthy host cells.
The scientists' discovery could also help advance another experimental approach: gene therapies, which treat genetic disorders by replacing or disrupting genes that aren't working properly. Gene therapies targeting Parkinson's, hemophilia, leukemia, cystic fibrosis and many other diseases are being developed, but gene therapies have proved difficult, as they sometimes induce a cancer or trigger an immune response against cells with the introduced genes. The new method for boosting novel protein production might prevent these effects by allowing the insertion of smaller amounts of DNA.
The method for boosting production of novel proteins in a host cell was discovered by accident. Dudley and her team were attempting to understand how mouse mammary tumor virus (MMTV), a virus related to HIV that causes breast cancer and leukemia, manipulates an infected host cell to keep the host's immune system from attacking it.
A bit of genetic material that was expected to produce lower levels of a certain protein instead caused cells to produce a lot more of it.
"Everything in the literature would indicate that something abnormal had happened," said Dudley. "But we went back and used several different detection methods to show that what we observed was real."
According to conventional wisdom, when a cell detects the presence of foreign DNA such as the one the researchers introduced, it shuts down production of proteins to prevent the spread of viruses.
"What we've described is that introducing these DNAs leads to a different detection system in the cell that, instead of shutting down protein expression, increases expression," said Dudley.
When the researchers combined this protein-boosting DNA with genes for other novel proteins and introduced them into host cells, those proteins were also produced at a much higher rate than with traditional methods of delivering genes. Dudley suggests that including this extra bit of genetic material could be applied to a wide range of research problems to increase the production of specific proteins within cells.
Dudley's co-authors are Yongqiang Gou, Hyewon Byun, Adam E. Zook, Gurvani B. Singh, Andrea K. Nash and Mary M. Lozano.
This research was supported by the National Institutes of Health.
Read the paper "Retroviral vectors elevate coexpressed protein levels in trans through cap-dependent translation": http://www.
Marc Airhart | EurekAlert!
New printing technique uses cells and molecules to recreate biological structures
20.02.2018 | Queen Mary University of London
In living color: Brightly-colored bacteria could be used to 'grow' paints and coatings
20.02.2018 | University of Cambridge
For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.
In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...
Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale
Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...
For photographers and scientists, lenses are lifesavers. They reflect and refract light, making possible the imaging systems that drive discovery through the microscope and preserve history through cameras.
But today's glass-based lenses are bulky and resist miniaturization. Next-generation technologies, such as ultrathin cameras or tiny microscopes, require...
Scientists from the University of Zurich have succeeded for the first time in tracking individual stem cells and their neuronal progeny over months within the intact adult brain. This study sheds light on how new neurons are produced throughout life.
The generation of new nerve cells was once thought to taper off at the end of embryonic development. However, recent research has shown that the adult brain...
Theoretical physicists propose to use negative interference to control heat flow in quantum devices. Study published in Physical Review Letters
Quantum computer parts are sensitive and need to be cooled to very low temperatures. Their tiny size makes them particularly susceptible to a temperature...
15.02.2018 | Event News
13.02.2018 | Event News
12.02.2018 | Event News
20.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
20.02.2018 | Life Sciences
20.02.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering