H1N1 Research: On a “Heading” Toward a Universal Influenza Vaccine

When writing about influenza, it can be difficult to report on cutting-edge research. One has to carefully apply terms like “breakthrough.” One also has to avoid terms like “miracle cure.”

A universal flu vaccine, that can provide extended protection across a variety of recombitant influenza viruses represents the pinnacle for microbiological research in this area. While this goal remains years away, there are some promising lines of approach.

Current influenza vaccines essentially are aimed at narrow range of viruses that are currently in circulation. “Frequent minor changes in flu viruses involve two surface proteins, hemagglutinin and neuraminidase, represented by the H and N in virus names.”

The hemagglutanin (HA) surface protein is a “mushroom-shaped structure helps the virus attach to the cells it infects” The problem arises when the HA attack surface changes due to antigenic drift, requiring annual updates to the seasonal flu vaccine. Hence, some modern lines of research toward a universal vaccine try to take aim at those sections of HA portion of the virus that are relatively static over time and are consistent over several strains.

Researchers at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York developed
a proof-of-
concept designed to help the immune system develop antibodies that target a headless hemagglutanin (HA) molecule. Thus far trials have proven successful in mice.

Other lines of research over recent years have taken aim at “M2”, a relatively stable protein found in Influenza A viruses.

Other molecular research has not centered on influenza virus itself but rather on finding human host factors and classes of natural flu fighting proteins that inhibit virus replication.

Life Extension - Health And Medical Findings

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Reuters: Researchers take step to ‘universal’ flu vaccine

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