A glycoconjugate vaccine is comprised of covalently bound carbohydrate and protein molecules, and is the standard design for many vaccines used to protect against common diseases such as pneumonia and meningitis.
Researchers designed the vaccine prototype after discovering that immune cells, called T-cells, can recognize a vaccine's carbohydrates, and from that recognition elicit an immune response. This discovery challenges popular assumptions that immune cells only recognize the protein portion of glycoconjugate vaccines.
Proof that T-cells recognize carbohydrates came when researchers immunized mice with different types of glycoconjugate vaccines against the bacteria, group B Streptococcus. One group was immunized with vaccines containing different proteins. Another group was immunized with vaccines with the same proteins. For both groups, the carbohydrate chain in the vaccines was the same.
We are hoping that our findings will provide a framework for production of new-generation therapeutics and preventive medicines not only against bacterial infections, but also for cancer and viral diseases.
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