For the first time, the mechanism of infecting human cells of a virus called Adenovirus type 26 (Ad26) was decoded by scientists at Cardiff University School of Medicine. If you do not know, Ad26 is a virus that has been domesticated to turn into a variety of vaccines.
In its natural form, the virus can infect humans and cause severe respiratory failure, even leading to death. But scientists have found a way to take advantage of it as a major component in vaccines against many deadly diseases.
Right now, an Ad26-based vaccine is currently being deployed in Africa to combat Ebola. However, so far, science has not understood how these viruses work inside the human body, and what makes it such a good vaccine?
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The research, published in the journal Science Advances, provides the first detailed analysis of the structure of the Ad26 virus in a complex with its newly discovered receptor.
"Our research shows that Ad26 uses a sugar found on the surface of most cells, to invade and infect the inside of human cells.", Said Alexander Baker, lead researcher at Cardiff University School of Medicine.
"Previously, the scientific community believed that Ad26 used a protein called CD46 to infect cells. Our research shows that this is extremely unlikely and provides an alternative explanation. "
By investigating Ad26's process of taking advantage of sugar molecules on the cell surface, the team believes they have opened up a new branch of research with many applications. Domesticated Ad26 virus can continue to be exploited to create more effective vaccines, against infectious diseases and even cancer.
"We know of an Ad26-based vaccine that has shown promising potential when dealing with life-threatening infections, like Ebola.", Alexander explained.
"So far, however, we know very little, if not the understanding of how this virus works, when it can be a vaccine and when it will be a pathogen. Our research has provided a new answer to that question ".
Model of sugar molecule linked to Ad26 virus in the newly discovered complex
Alexander's team has now established a model of invasion and spread of Ad26 into human cells. This will help other scientists and clinicians target the sugar molecule attachment site to develop new drugs or vaccines.
"The 'cracking' of virus code proves the importance of understanding how effective virus-based vaccines work, which protects us against life-threatening infections.", Alexander said.
Not stopping there, the next work his team aims to be even more attractive. Alexander said the findings will be applied to develop virus-based vaccines to combat cancer.
The vaccine stimulates the body's immune system to fight tumor cells as they grow. This research is similar to immunotherapy, which is currently an area that many cancer researchers have high expectations.