Researchers modify red blood cells to trigger immune response against COVID-19


A research initiative of a team of chemists, immunologists, and physicists at McMaster University has led to re-engineer of red blood cells. This will enable red blood cells to carry viral agents which can safely activate the immune system for protection against coronavirus, and creates a promising medium for vaccine delivery.

Meanwhile, it is critical to develop new strategies and vaccine technologies to control the pandemic and prepare for future outbreaks as new variants of coronavirus continue to emerge, say researchers.

The method described in the journal PLOS ONE is an entirely new approach for vaccination. As the first step, red blood-cell membranes are embedded with SARS-CoV-2 spike proteins, which then form virus lookalike particles.

Later, red blood cells were taken and everything removed from inside. Spike proteins were attached to the outside of red blood cells to imitate a corona virus, stated the lead author of the study.

Clinical trials undertaken in mice reveals that particles activating the immune system and producing antibodies are completely harmless.

On the other hand, current methods of vaccine delivery cause drastic reactions in the immune system and have short-lived responses. Some vaccines that have been developed have side effects too. The new vaccine delivery platform opens new avenues for vaccines and therapeutics.

During investigation, researchers discovered cells can be packed with large dose of viral proteins of viral proteins, yet seldom have few side effects. This makes the new approach more effective and tolerable than other vaccine options.

The method developed by researchers can induce an immune response without using genetic material, and yet the particles were synthesized in a very short duration of time, added the lead author of the study.

Importantly, the technology can be quickly configured to develop vaccines for new viruses or variants that may emerge in future.

Edward Turner

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