Nanoengineers from the University of California, San Diego have developed a prototype of a vaccine against a new type of coronavirus based on plant viruses: one of its main advantages is heat resistance.
Researchers have made two prototype COVID-19 vaccines. The first is based on the cowpea mosaic virus, the second is from a bacterial virus, or bacteriophage called Q beta.
Both vaccines were made in a similar manner. The authors of the new work used cowpea plants and E. coli bacteria in order to make millions of copies of the plant virus and bacteriophage: these were nanoparticles in the shape of a ball.
The researchers collected these nanoparticles and then attached a small piece of SARS-CoV-2 spike protein to their surface. The result is something akin to an infectious virus: the immune system can recognize it, but it is not contagious, either to animals or to humans. A small piece of spike protein attached to the surface stimulates the body to develop an immune response against the coronavirus.
The authors note that plant viruses and bacteriophages can help in the production of vaccines and add new properties to the finished product. For example, such a product will be cheaper and does not require serious infrastructure for production.
Also, nanoparticles are stable at high temperatures, so vaccines can be stored without refrigeration.