The use of computers to advance human disease research – known as bioinformatics -- has received a major boost from researchers at the La Jolla Institute for Allergy & Immunology (LIAI), who have used it to successfully predict immune response to one of the most complex viruses known to man – the vaccinia virus, which is used in the smallpox vaccine. Immune responses, which are essentially how the body fights a disease-causing agent, are a crucial element of vaccine development.
"We are excited because this further validates the important role that bioinformatics can play in the development of diagnostic tools and ultimately vaccines," said Alessandro Sette, Ph.D., an internationally known vaccine expert and head of LIAI's Emerging Infectious Disease and Biodefense Center. "We've shown that it can successfully reveal – with a very high degree of accuracy -- the vast majority of the epitopes (targets) that would trigger an effective immune response against a complex pathogen."
Bioinformatics holds significant interest in the scientific community because of its potential to move scientific research forward more quickly and at less expense than traditional laboratory testing.
The findings were published this week in a paper, "A consensus epitope prediction approach identifies the breadth of murine TCD8+-cell responses to vaccinia virus," in the online version of the journal Nature Biotechnology. LIAI scientist Magdalini Moutaftsi was the lead author on the paper.
While bioinformatics – which uses computer databases, algorithms and statistical techniques to analyze biological information -- is already in use as a predictor of immune response, the LIAI research team's findings were significant because they demonstrated an extremely high rate of prediction accuracy (95 percent) in a very complex pathogen – the vaccinia virus. The vaccinia virus is a non-dangerous virus used in the smallpox vaccine because it is related to the variola virus, which is the agent of smallpox. The scientific team was able to prove the accuracy of their computer results through animal testing.
"Before, we knew that the prediction methods we were using were working, but this study proves that they work very well with a high degree of accuracy," Sette said.
The researchers focused their testing on the Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC), which binds to certain epitopes and is key to triggering the immune system to attack a virus-infected cell. Epitopes are pieces of a virus that the body's immune system focuses on when it begins an immune response. By understanding which epitopes will bind to the MHC molecule and cause an immune attack, scientists can use those epitopes to develop a vaccine to ward off illness – in this case to smallpox.
The scientists were able to find 95 percent of the MHC binding epitopes through the computer modeling. "This is the first time that bioinformatics prediction for epitope MHC binding can account for almost all of the (targeted) epitopes that are existing in very complex pathogens like vaccinia," said LIAI researcher Magdalini Moutaftsi. The LIAI scientists theorize that the bioinformatics prediction approach for epitope MHC binding will be applicable to other viruses.
"The beauty of the virus used for this study is that it's one of the most complex, large viruses that exist," said Moutaftsi. "If we can predict almost all (targeted) epitopes from such a large virus, then we should be able to do that very easily for less complex viruses like influenza, herpes or even HIV, and eventually apply this methodology to larger microbes such as tuberculosis."
The big advantage of using bioinformatics to predict immune system targets, explained Sette, is that it overcomes the need to manufacture and test large numbers of peptides in the laboratory to find which ones will initiate an immune response. Peptides are amino acid pieces that potentially can be recognized by the immune system. "There are literally thousands of peptides," explained Sette. "You might have to create and test hundreds or even thousands of them to find the right ones," he said. "With bioinformatics, the computer does the screening based on very complex mathematical algorithms. And it can do it in much less time and at much less expense than doing the testing in the lab."
The LIAI scientific team verified the accuracy of their computer findings by comparing the results against laboratory testing of the peptides and whole infectious virus in mice. "We studied the total response directed against infected cells," Sette said. "We compared it to the response against the 50 epitopes that had been predicted by the computer. We were pleased to see that our prediction could account for 95% of the total response directed against the virus."
Bonnie Ward | EurekAlert!
Nanoparticle Exposure Can Awaken Dormant Viruses in the Lungs
16.01.2017 | Helmholtz Zentrum München - Deutsches Forschungszentrum für Gesundheit und Umwelt
Cholera bacteria infect more effectively with a simple twist of shape
13.01.2017 | Princeton University
Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.
While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...
Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales
Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...
Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.
As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...
At TU Wien, an alternative for resource intensive formwork for the construction of concrete domes was developed. It is now used in a test dome for the Austrian Federal Railways Infrastructure (ÖBB Infrastruktur).
Concrete shells are efficient structures, but not very resource efficient. The formwork for the construction of concrete domes alone requires a high amount of...
Many pathogens use certain sugar compounds from their host to help conceal themselves against the immune system. Scientists at the University of Bonn have now, in cooperation with researchers at the University of York in the United Kingdom, analyzed the dynamics of a bacterial molecule that is involved in this process. They demonstrate that the protein grabs onto the sugar molecule with a Pac Man-like chewing motion and holds it until it can be used. Their results could help design therapeutics that could make the protein poorer at grabbing and holding and hence compromise the pathogen in the host. The study has now been published in “Biophysical Journal”.
The cells of the mouth, nose and intestinal mucosa produce large quantities of a chemical called sialic acid. Many bacteria possess a special transport system...
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
05.01.2017 | Event News
17.01.2017 | Earth Sciences
17.01.2017 | Materials Sciences
17.01.2017 | Architecture and Construction