Making Cells Go Viral For Vaccine Research

Scientists in Japan have devised a method to produce multiple genotypes of noroviruses in the lab, paving the way for better vaccines.

AsianScientist (Dec. 24, 2018) – An Osaka University-led research team has developed a system for efficiently producing human noroviruses. Their findings, published in the journal Cellular and Molecular Gastroenterology and Hepatology, could lead to a better understanding of norovirus infections and facilitate vaccine development.

The human norovirus is a major cause of intestinal infectious gastroenteritis which can be fatal in children and elderly people. No effective preventive vaccine or therapy is currently available, and studies of norovirus are severely limited because the virus cannot be easily grown in a laboratory setting.

In the present study, scientists led by Associate Professor Shintaro Sato of Osaka University, Japan, have coaxed human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) to develop into intestinal epithelial cells (IECs), a type of cell that usually lines the intestine. This resulted in a cellular environment that can be used for producing noroviruses efficiently.

“Our new method uses IECs produced from human iPSCs, which are theoretically available in nearly unlimited quantities,” said Sato. “More importantly, these new IECs do not require the use of bile to produce large quantities of human norovirus.”

With their norovirus production system, the researchers found that a lesser-known type of norovirus, GII.17, might be better than the predominant type of norovirus, GII.4, as the basis for a vaccine. The recommended vaccine based on GII.17 could be effective against both GII.17 and GII.4 noroviruses, said the authors.

“Using these new IECs raises fewer ethical concerns than using systems that require conventional intestinal tissue,” Sato added. “As a result, we expect that this method will be useful for industrial applications, such as evaluating vaccine candidates and assessing immune responses in clinical trials.”

The article can be found at: Sato et al. (2018) Human Norovirus Propagation in Human Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell-derived Intestinal Epithelial Cells.


Source: Osaka University; Photo: Shutterstock.
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