Electricity key to an effective vaccine against dust mite allergy

Author: Elsevier

Date: May 2013

Research published in Immunology Letters shows that new DNA vaccine technology could be improved with electric charge during vaccination

More than 20% of people from industrialized countries are allergic to house dust mites. Dust mites live in people’s homes, eating dead skin cells and excreting proteins. These proteins cause people’s immune systems to overreact, resulting in allergic reactions like dermatitis, rhinitis and asthma. Therapeutic vaccines with extracts of house dust mites have been tested, but because they are not purified they could induce new allergies to other substances. Also, the treatment involves a series of 50-80 injections over a two to five year period.

New research published in Immunology Letters shows that a new kind of DNA vaccine against house dust mite allergy is effective in mice. The research also shows that the effectiveness is greatly increased when an electric charge is applied at the site of vaccination – a technique known as electroporation.

Existing DNA vaccines against allergies work by encoding specific proteins that cause allergies. Although lab tests have been promising, these DNA vaccines have so far not been very effective in primates and humans, particularly when given by conventional injection.

The new research evaluates three modifications to the traditional DNA vaccine: the dose of DNA, the type of DNA scaffolding or ‘backbone’ used, and the method of injection. The results show that the dose and backbone type do not have a significant impact overall on the effectiveness of the vaccine. However, using electroporation to administer the vaccine significantly increased its effectiveness.

The researchers vaccinated groups of mice with very low doses of DNA, and tested whether they developed an allergy to house dust mites following injection. Those that were injected with electroporation did not develop house dust mite allergies.

The research concludes that the potent immune response to the DNA vaccine and the prevention of allergies in mice provides the basis to take the vaccine into clinical trials. Electroporation could be an efficient technology to reduce the dose and frequency of vaccine required to prevent allergies in humans.

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