Safety concerns over the use of a DNA vaccine have been raised by Chinese scientists after they observed that it induced autoimmune disease in mice.
DNA vaccines are genetically engineered parts of virus DNA that are injected into the body to boost the immune system’s response to viral, bacterial and parasitic pathogens. Cells in the body convert the DNA into proteins that are recognised as foreign by the immune system, which triggers a response. In conventional vaccines, weakened or killed forms of the virus are injected. DNA vaccines eliminate the risk of infection associated with conventional vaccines, are extremely stable and can provide long-lived immune responses.
However, Shuhan Sun and his team from the Second Military Medical University, Shanghai, were testing mice for reactions to a DNA vaccine called pcDNA3-b1. They noticed that the mice developed symptoms of vitiligo – a skin pigmentation disorder where patches of skin lose colour – within six weeks of a third immunisation.
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Link to journal article
Down-regulation of Prdx6 contributes to DNA vaccine induced vitiligo in mice
Qi Zhou, Fang Wang, Yi Zhang, Fu Yang, Yue Wang and Shuhan Sun, Mol. BioSyst., 2011