Science For All: What is M2e?

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The Hindu’s Science for All newsletters are carefully curated to help you understand the everyday happenings and wonders of the universe.

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The M2 protein is considered a holy grail in designing a universal flu vaccine. The seasonal flu strains mutate rapidly and new strains of the virus multiply. This makes it very difficult to make a vaccine that can consistently generate a sufficient level of immunity.

The M2e peptide is a part of the influenza virus that is conserved, meaning it does not undergo too many mutations. Over the years, researchers have observed that the M2e peptide region has remained virtually unchanged among the various types of influenza A strains. Therefore, it is possible to design a vaccine that targets this peptide and stimulates the immune system to generate antibodies.

For this reason, M2e has been recognized for years as a leading universal flu candidate. However, it has a limited ability to elicit a strong and long-lasting immune response and this has been a major roadblock in its clinical development.

Recently, researchers reported a new vaccine platform to deliver M2e to immune cells. By deploying this platform, a single vaccine containing M2e was able to trigger prolonged immune responses that could effectively protect against multiple strains of flu.

The team was also able to show that this vaccination approach significantly enhanced the protective immune response in the context of pre-existing influenza immunity – a situation that is particularly relevant in adult and elderly populations, where individuals have had multiple exposures to influenza viruses and low levels of M2e in the past. -specific antibodies in their circulation.

This vaccine approach has the potential to minimize the amount of M2e vaccine antigen (a substance that elicits the body’s immune response against it) and the need for strong adjuvants (a substance that enhances the body’s immune response to an antigen), thereby reducing potential side effects . effects, especially in more vulnerable populations.

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