University of MiamiInfluenza vaccination is known to be beneficial in the prevention of the disease. But the virus evolves by frequent changes of its genetic code, making scientists unable to develop effective vaccines for the seasonal flu on time. Apparently experts from the University of Miami (UM) have generated a quick and effectual approach to manufacture vaccines for unique strains of influenza viruses.

Experts elucidated that computer algorithms are used in the latest approach to ascertain the viruses acting as live vaccines which are then synthesized to specification. The unique method is termed as Synthetic Attenuated Virus Engineering (SAVE). Weakening a virus to the extent that it is unable to cause sickness is ascertained to be a way to develop an anti-viral vaccine. The weakened virus may be employed as a live vaccine and may aid to save lives. However, at times the virus seems to convert again in order to acquire virulence.

“We have been able to produce an entirely novel method to systematically design vaccines using computer algorithms. Our approach is not only useful for influenza; it is also applicable to a wide range of viruses,” commented Dimitris Papamichail, assistant professor of Computer Science in the College of Arts and Sciences at UM and co-author of the research.

During the research, the investigators supposedly developed a synthetic genome of the virus encompassing numerous alterations to its genetic code. The investigators explained that the computer algorithms reveal the precise place in the genome to make the changes, like the novel synthetic genome encodes in lesser quantities but quite identical to the wild-type genome. The novel approach seemingly provides a wide margin of safety, with less likelihood of all the changes to turn themselves back to produce a virulent strain.

The researchers mentioned that both the novel sequence and the original sequence direct the synthesis of the same proteins. But the latest sequence apparently puts forth a weaker version of the virus, hence could be more useful than the original sequence. Once the new approach is employed, even though the live vaccine has the capacity of triggering an immune reaction against the wild-type virus, the reaction does not seem to be capable of causing disease symptoms.

The experts claim this method to weaken the influenza virus can create safe, efficient vaccines against various other forms of viruses. Further experiments will be conducted to determine other techniques that can possibly be used for methodically and computationally designing from basic synthetic organisms with predetermined functions and controlled properties, having broad applications in medicine.

The research is published online in the publication by Nature Biotechnology.