The flu shot is a common vaccine millions of people get in order to prevent becoming sick with the flu. . Millions of Americans become sick, hundreds of thousands are hospitalized, and some even die. At best the vaccine is only forty to sixty percent effective. Researchers have now found data that shows cellular RNA levels change following infection or vaccination. This work from Michigan State University could help make flu shot more effective or help towards the design of a universal vaccine. This team at the university reanalyzed data from studies where scientists took blood samples from flu patients and vaccine recipients and studied those samples for gene expression. By looking at the levels of RNA gene expression can be measured, and when a gene is expressed in a cell it means the DNA has been used to produce RNA for this gene. Gene expression in cells is very important because it can change the response to stimuli including diseases. 978 genes were discovered with changed expression for flu infection and vaccine with a third of those genes overlapping, and two thirds were unique to one or the other. Certain genes were associated with different processes of the body, and several genes were expressed differently in flu infection. Exclusively expressed vaccination genes stimulated the bodies immune response because they were involved in antigen processing. While analyzing these studies it was also discovered that 907 genes were related to age, and 48 were related to sex. Putting all these discoveries together is the start to developing better more personalized flu vaccines based on age, sex, and even gene expression. Understanding how these factors affect the efficiency of a vaccine is also the start to not only better vaccines, but a universal vaccine. These discoveries only propose more questions, and more discoveries to be made in the future to really make the flu vaccine, and all vaccines overall more effective.
Related Article: https://www.the-scientist.com/news-analysis/how-to-build-a-better-flu-shot-30358