MIT researchers develop experimental jabs for quick Ebola, Zika protection

Scientists have been developing vaccines that could stop disease outbreaks more quickly. Now, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are moving ahead with easy-to-make experimental jabs that can ward off a variety of diseases. 

The vaccines can be made in under a week and have already shown success in protecting mice from the flu, Ebola and Zika, Reuters reports. The jabs, which are still in early stages, use genetic material to fight viral, bacterial or parasitic diseases.

Messenger RNA is inserted into a molecule, and the molecule delivers the material to a cell to spur an immune response. The vaccines could offer an advantage over current jabs because they take less time to produce and could be replicated for a slew of diseases, MIT researchers said.

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Early results are promising: Scientists have already tested the vaccines against Ebola and H1N1 flu and found that they were 100% effective in lab mice, according to a study published last month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Researchers then tested the experimental jab for Zika in mice and charted similar results, Omar Khan, an MIT chemical engineer who helped developed the technology, told Reuters.

Harnessing genetic material to create vaccines isn’t a new concept, though. Some scientists are working on developing a “universal” cancer vaccine that uses RNA code from cancer to help patients produce anticancerous T cells.

The jabs are “fast and inexpensive to produce,” Professor Ugur Sahin from Johannes Gutenberg University said about the cancer vaccines in June. Almost any tumor antigen can be encoded by RNA, which makes the process easier to replicate, Sahin said.

- read the Reuters story

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