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Vaccine from viral spikes holds promise

18 Apr, 2020

A key portion of a coronavirus protein could form the basis of a safe and effective vaccine.

Coronavirus particles bristle with spiny ‘spike proteins’. A portion of the spike called the receptor-binding domain recognizes and attaches to a molecule found on the surface of many human cells, allowing the viral particle to gain entry into those cells.

Hyeryun Choe and Michael Farzan at the Scripps Research Institute in Jupiter, Florida, and their colleagues immunized rats with fragments of the spike’s binding domain (B. D. Quinlan et al. Preprint at bioRxiv,; 2020). In response, the rodents’ immune systems made antibodies that can recognize coronavirus and prevent it from infecting cells.

Further experiments suggested that these antibodies are unlikely to make host cells more susceptible to coronavirus infection — one of the main safety concerns for vaccines.

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