Jonas Salk created a vaccine against polio that has been used since 1955; Albert Sabin created another version that has been on the market since 1961. Together, these two vaccines have nearly eliminated polio from the face of the earth.
Emphasis on nearly. Outbreaks have persisted in developing nations in Asia, Africa and the Americas, in part due to limitations of these vaccines. Most recently, in 2013, Israel reported a “silent” outbreak of polio, in which no one got sick but the virus was found in the environment and in vaccinated individuals.
New research led by University of Pennsylvania scientists offers hope for an alternative. Collaborating with researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Penn team developed an oral vaccine booster by manipulating plants to express a protein found in the polio virus. Tests with sera from immunized mice show that the booster confers immunity against all three serotypes of polio.
“Our vaccine research has the potential to provide a timely solution to deal with polio outbreaks around the globe,” said Henry Daniell, professor in the Department of Biochemistry in Penn’s School of Dental Medicine and senior author on the work.
Researchers may have found a way to slow down or prevent memory problems that arise in old age and which can become devastating in patients with dementia.
The fresh hope comes from a series of studies in humans and mice that identified a protein which causes memory impairment when it builds up in the blood and brain with age. Scientists found that injections of the protein made young animals’ memories worse and reduced the growth of new neurons in their brains. Further studies showed that blocking the protein prevented memory loss in older animals, making them smarter than untreated animals of the same age.
Scientists found that injections of the protein made young animals’ memories worse and reduced the growth of new neurons in their brains. Further studies showed that blocking the protein prevented memory loss in older animals, making them smarter than untreated animals of the same age.
The findings are the latest to come from researchers in the US who have shown in previous work that blood plasma taken from young animals can rejuvenate the muscles, brains and other tissues of older animals.
Those studies have led scientists to suspect that blood plasma contains a cocktail of factors that either drive or counteract the natural ageing process. Major efforts are now underway to identify the different components at work in the hope of turning them into a therapy. A human trial to test the effects of young plasma on Alzheimer’s patients is already underway.