I believe that our current quality of life has been most affected by the discovery of vaccines, even more so than by our use of antibiotics. I also firmly believe that the benefits of those vaccines outweigh any and all side-effects, disadvantages and the scare-mongering tirades about inerudite, nonsense-driven “research”. I am personally, extremely ecstatic that I never had to worry about getting polio or mumps or rubella. Though the shots hurt like crazy at the time, I can now silently thank my parents for listening to the “advice” of knowledgeable doctors and scientists who promised them I could have a better chance of life than the one their parents lived with. t is advice that I have also chosen to listen to for my own children, rather than let them fall prey to the ravages of the most terrifying diseases and plagues that our species has dealt with so poorly throughout millennia…until only just these last hundred years or so.

Unlike antibiotics, vaccines work with our body’s natural defenses by helping to build an initial bulwark against the specific antigens of a disease that can then be repopulated at a later time in the event that the disease manifests. You can think of vaccines more like an underground, resistance force laying the groundwork for a potential invasion as compared to an antibiotic’s nuclear missile strike after the invasion already took place. That cooperative action also means that we don’t have to worry about things like developing immunities to vaccines, since they are not the main actors on the stage of combat, only the catalysts for better host immune response.

There are, of course, some inherent risks involved with vaccines. Attenuated microorganisms in some vaccines may go rogue and develop into the full-fledged disease they originated from. A person’s immune response may also go hyperactive against the vaccine dose, causing traumatic problems. In therapeutically vaccinated patients, there may not enough of an immune response left in the body (for any of a variety of reasons) so that vaccination does little to help sufficiently subdue the disease. These are not trivial matters, to say the least, and doctors and scientists are constantly working to create better and more efficacious vaccines or vaccination systems. Recently, a group from the University of Navarra in Spain, under Juan Jose Lasarte, may just have found a novel method to improve how we produce vaccines.

Lasarte’s team had already previously discovered that the fusion of the Extra Domain A (EDA) of fibronectin to an antigen leads to an increase in its association with TLR4-expressing dendritic cells, causing greater immunogenicity of the antigen and greater induction of immunity. But the fusion of EDA to every single, different antigen is time-consuming, problematic and prohibitive. But what if they could find a more universal approach to creating the fusion? Lasarte’s team focused on building a hybrid EDA-linked streptavidin recombinant protein that could be simply and easily linked to any biotinylated antigen or protein due to the high affinity streptavidin naturally has for biotin. They called their new protein the “EDAvidin”.

One of the most important aspects of the streptavidin-biotin interaction is the requirement of the tetramarization of the streptavidin protein. Through a series of tests and comparisons, Lasarte’s group could see that the new EDAvidin still formed into the tetramer orientation required for optimal biotin interaction. Even better, they biotinylated an ovalbumin (OVA) protein and successfully pulled the OVA proteins out of solution using EVAvidin in an ELISA assay. The binding affinity wasn’t quite as good as the original streptavidin-biotin, reaching only to 10-14 as compared to the original’s Kd of 10-15, but that’s still really good! The EDAvidin also maintained the proimflammatory activity that they noted in their earlier work with pure EDA, producing an immune response in the T cells of mice similar to that of antigens linked only to EDA.

All in all, EDAvidin presents the best of both worlds: a method to produce better acting vaccines that can be ubiquitously used with any protein that can be biotinylated, which is pretty much any protein. Lasarte’s method may end up becoming the building block for an entire new system of vaccine therapy, leading to better cancer tumor control and immunoresponse. I think that it’s just another brilliant use of an already brilliant system.

Arribillaga, L., Durantez, M., Lozano, T., Rudilla, F., Rehberger, F., Casares, N., Villanueva, L., Martinez, M., Gorraiz, M., Borrás-Cuesta, F., Sarobe, P., Prieto, J. & Lasarte, J. J. (2013). A Fusion Protein between Streptavidin and the Endogenous TLR4 Ligand EDA Targets Biotinylated Antigens to Dendritic Cells and Induces T Cell Responses In Vivo. BioMed research international, 2013.

Category Code: 79101 88231

PS. For an awesome example of what vaccinating does for us as opposed to not vaccinating, you can check out Penn and Teller explaining it in their unique, condescending (and humorous) way.