Publish Date: February 16, 2023

Researchers' Efforts to Develop a Next-Generation Vaccine Against COVID-19 Give Promising Results in Animal Trial Phase

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New Delhi: Since the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak, scientists from around the world have been studying the disease and its epidemiology to develop effective vaccines. The development of a vaccine that can overcome disadvantages including the stability of the materials used, limited immune response, and side effects, e.g., blood clotting, and provide a durable immune response will offer better protection from the deadly COVID-19 virus.

Researchers from IIT Delhi have taken a step forward towards next-generation vaccine for COVID-19. Unlike currently used vaccines, which use synthetic materials or adenovirus to package and deliver antigens, the IIT Delhi researchers used the body's own immune cells in developing a nano-vaccine.

This naturally derived nano-vaccine developed by the researchers could have several advantages over currently approved vaccines. It will minimise the chance of blood clotting, which was otherwise observed in vaccinated individuals.

A study titled "SARS-CoV-2 Spike Protein-Activated Dendritic Cell-Derived Extracellular Vesicles Induce Antiviral Immunity in Mice" to this effect, carried out in collaboration with the Regional Centre for Biotechnology, Faridabad, was recently published in ACS Biomaterials Science & Engineering (10.1021/acsbiomaterials.2c01094).

Generally, after vaccination, the antigens are processed by the antigen-presenting cells (APCs), which eventually activate other immune cells (B and T cells) to generate the antibodies and eliminate the virus. However, this next-generation vaccine is one step ahead as it uses the nanovesicles derived from activated APCs, which already contain processed antigens on their surface and are also equipped with other factors required for the direct activation of B and T cells.

The immune response elicited by this vaccine was tested in mice. The results showed that it generated antibodies against the COVID-19 virus and was more effective as compared to free antigen.

"In fact, when injected with a 10 times lower dose compared to the free antigen, the nano-vaccine was equally efficient in raising antiviral immunity. Interestingly, it showed a durable immune response, including the generation of memory cells, which can act as a safeguard for the next infection,” Prof. Jayanta Bhattacharyya, Centre for Biomedical Engineering, IIT Delhi, said.

Prof. Bhattacharyya added that this approach to vaccination can be used for various other infectious diseases, such as dengue. The Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) has approved a research grant to the group for the development of a nano-vaccine against dengue.