New vaccine is 100 times more effective than traditional glycoconjugate vaccines

Researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital have developed a vaccine that is 100 times more effective than traditional glycoconjugate vaccines.
A glycoconjugate vaccine is made up of covalently bound carbohydrate and protein molecules, and is the standard design for a great deal of vaccines used to protect against common diseases such as meningitis and pneumonia. The researchers designed the vaccine prototype after discovering that immune cells, which are called T-cells, can recognize a vaccine's carbohydrates and can use the recognition to elicit an immune response, Science Daily reports.
Researchers proved that T-cells can recognize carbohydrates after immunizing mice with different types of glycoconjugate vaccines against the bacteria group B Streptococcus. One group was immunized with vaccines containing different proteins while another group was immunized with vaccines with the same proteins. In both groups, the carbohydrate chain in the vaccines was the same.
Researchers found that mice given the vaccines with different proteins had as good an immune response as those given vaccines with the same proteins, according to Science Daily. The variability in proteins did not change the immune response. This showed researchers that T-cells were recognizing carbohydrates to generate a consistent immune response.
"One thing that is tremendously novel here is that we were able to find T-cells within a mouse after immunization with a glycoconjugate [vaccine] that just recognized carbohydrates," Dennis L. Kasper, the director of BWH's Channing Laboratory, said, according to Science Daily. "So these may be the first true carbohydrate-specific T-cells found."
The understanding that it was not just proteins, but also carbohydrates that were being recognized by cells led researchers to design a vaccine yielding many carbohydrate particles when processed by the immune system. This created a vaccine that generated a stronger immune response. The researchers say that the more effective vaccine prototype they designed may one day aid in protecting high-risk populations susceptible to disease.
"For example, pneumococcal conjugate vaccines are good in children, but are not effective in protecting the elderly," Kasper said, according to Science Daily. "So we are hopeful that by designing vaccines like this, you'll make better vaccines that will be effective in all the at-risk populations."
Fikri Avci, the study's lead author, said that the findings on how the body's immune cells interact with carbohydrates may also lead to more effective vaccines in the future.
"Carbohydrates are among the most abundant and structurally diverse molecules in nature," Avci said, according to Science Daily. "They are extremely important in many biological functions. A better understanding of carbohydrate interaction is crucial. We are hoping that our findings will provide a framework for production of new-generation therapeutics and preventive medicines not only against bacterial infections, but also for cancer and viral diseases."