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New vaccine may mean less expensive treatment for psoriasis, allergies

Vaccines utilizing virus-like particles may represent an effective alternative to monoclonal antibodies for treating psoriasis, allergies, and similar immune-related conditions, according to new findings published online ahead of print in Nature Vaccines (Oct. 23, 2017).

The authors note that while monoclonal antibodies have produced good results in the treatment of a number of non-infectious diseases, their cost can be a barrier to access. However, past attempts to create vaccines that would stimulate an immune response to these conditions—allowing the body to produce its own antibodies—have not produced optimal stimulation of T-cells. They have also produced weak responses in some patients, particularly older individuals.

“For chronic diseases, these antibodies are specially made against one of the body’s own proteins. By blocking that single protein, the disease gets better. To use the example of psoriasis, a protein called Interleukin 17 needs to be active for the disease to progress,” said study author Dr. John Foerster, in a press release. Dr. Foerster is a clinical senior lecturer at the University of Dundee School of Medicine in Scotland.

“By creating a vaccine that stimulates the body to make antibodies against Interleukin 17 itself we can replace the need for frequent and expensive injections and make this type of treatment much more affordable and accessible to patients who could otherwise not afford specially-made antibodies.”

After prior research revealed that virus-like particles can bypass the self-tolerance that has prevented a strong immune response in other vaccine candidates, the researchers tried combining virus-like particles derived from a virus that infects plants with a protein marker, called an epitope, derived from tetanus. Because most humans’ immune systems recognize tetanus, the combination should result in a strong immune response.

In animal models of psoriasis and cat allergy, the vaccine showed positive results and also raised levels of antibodies thought to be beneficial in Alzheimer’s disease, the authors report.

“Our research shows that this technique works in mice and, importantly, our new vaccine technology shows that it is likely to be a more effective type of vaccine than existing ones in older people,” said Dr. Foerster. “Since many patients with chronic conditions like psoriasis are elderly this technology may work much better to obtain effective vaccines.”

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