The technique is based on "polymerase chain reaction," or PCR, and enables the rapid discovery of antigens for vaccines by allowing hundreds of proteins to be processed simultaneously using ordinary laboratory procedures. This new method allows the expression of 384 individual genes pieces of DNA that contain instructions for making proteins from a microorganism in just one week. Traditional methods take weeks to produce one protein at a time.
The UCI technique involves loading a microchip with every protein from an infectious microorganism such as smallpox, tuberculosis or malaria. When people infected with the disease react to some of the proteins included in the microchip, laser technology is used to identify these proteins for potential use in vaccines.
The researchers describe their technique in the Jan. 18, 2005 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
"Technologies today are not able to quickly process large amounts of data that arrive in the form of genome sequences from many human pathogens," said D. Huw Davies, lead author of the paper and associate project scientist in UCI's Center for Virus Research. "Our technique addresses and removes this bottleneck. Remarkably, in only ten weeks, we can make every protein of an organism such as the tuberculosis bacterium which has 3,900 genes."
The researchers used their technique to identify a unique set of 11 proteins among a total of 200 proteins that make up the live virus that is used to vaccinate against smallpox today. Humans react strongly onl
Contact: Iqbal Pittalwala
University of California - Irvine