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Monday, October 1, 2012

The Computer Algorithms Accelerates the Production of Flu Vaccine

For scientists, producing an effective vaccine against seasonal flu in a timely manner is still being felt hard. Now, Dr Dimitris Papamichail a computer scientist from the University of Miami (UM), and a team of researchers from Stony Brook University have developed a rapid and effective approach to produce a new vaccine strain of influenza virus. The researchers hope this discovery to develop new technologies and provides an efficient method to confront the threat of seasonal epidemics are emerging every year.

The new approach uses computer algorithms created by Papamichail and scientists from Stony Brook University. Where the algorithm is able to design viruses that serve as live vaccines, which are then synthesized to specification. The new method is called Synthetic Attenuated Virus Engineering (SAVE). The findings, titled "Live attenuated influenza virus vaccines by computer-aided rational design" has been published online by Nature Biotechnology.

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

One way to make an anti-viral vaccine is to weaken a virus to the point where it cannot cause sickness, and then use the weakened virus as a live vaccine. Although such weakened viruses often make very effective vaccines, they suffer from the possibility that the virus can sometimes mutate to regain virulence.

In this study, the researchers used a novel approach to weaken the influenza virus. They create a synthetic genome of the virus containing hundreds of changes in the genetic code. Computer algorithms indicate the best places in the genome, to make changes, such that the new synthetic genome code for proteins provide the exact same genome "wild type", but in smaller amounts. According Papamichail, this process allows a wide margin of safety. "The possibility of all the changes reverting themselves to produce a virulent strain is extremely unlikely," he said.

Although the new sequence and the original sequence both direct the synthesis of proteins exactly the same, the new sequence gives a weakened version of the virus, due to the reason that the live vaccine capable of eliciting an immune response against the wild-type virus. But not strong enough to cause the symptoms of the disease. This method is commonly used to weaken the influenza virus, and enables the creation of safe, effective vaccines against many types of viruses.

In the future, the researchers wanted to explore the application of those techniques, with the ultimate goal of methodical design and computation of initial synthetic organisms with predetermined functions and controlled properties, with broad applications in medicine.

Similarly, research conducted at Imperial London showed that the virus can be transmitted before the appearance of symptoms. If the findings are applicable to humans, it means that people can pass on the flu to someone else before they know they are infected, so it is very difficult to prevent an epidemic. *** [SCIENCEDAILY | DEDI RISKOMAR | PIKIRAN RAKYAT 13092012]
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