Wed, Oct 14, 2009 - Page 2 News List

Scientists find key to immune response


A research team at Academia Sinica has discovered that the size of the sugar molecules on the hemagglutinin (HA) protein in influenza viruses plays an important role in immune responses, a finding that could lead to a new strategy for the development of influenza, hepatitis C and HIV vaccines, officials said yesterday.

The results were published in the latest online issue of the US-based Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The study was conducted by injecting mice with different versions of H5N1 vaccines and exposing them to the bird flu virus, the officials said.

The result showed that mice immunized with vaccines obtained from the sugar-modified HA had a survival rate more than double that of those given the non-modified version, the officials said.

The study also found that the binding force between HA and human cell receptors became stronger when the sugar molecules were reduced in size. Mono-glycosylated hemagglutinin as a vaccine showed a stronger immune response.

Alex Ma (馬徹), an assistant research fellow at Academia Sinica’s Genomics Research Center, said that as conventional influenza vaccines are made from oligosaccharide HA molecules resembling those on human cell surfaces, they could easily fool the immune system when an invasion occurs.

By using the modified HA molecule as the vaccine, the immune system can fully recognize the HA protein and trigger an alert system that will not be confused by the sugar disguise, Ma said.

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