Skin scarification could be effective in vaccinating people against respiratory illnesses: Study

Prashasti Awasthi Mumbai | Updated on January 28, 2021

The technique was found to be effective in generating T cells that home to the lungs

Skin scarification may help generate lung T cells and provide protection against infectious diseases, including Covid-19, sccording to study published in the journal NPJ Vaccines.

"We have known for years that this technique was a good way to generate T cells that would home to the skin, but our study shows that skin scarification is also an effective way to generate T cells that home to the lungs," said lead author Thomas Kupper, MD, chair of the Department of Dermatology.

He added: "Vaccine development today is focused on selecting the best antigen(s) for T cells and B cells. But for a vaccine to work to its full potential, it also needs to direct T cells to where they are needed most. For respiratory pathogens, that means getting T cells to the lungs."

Kupper and the team set out to determine if the skin scarification route of immunisation with MVA could provoke a more effective T cell response than other routes of immunisation.

The team inoculated mice using either skin scarification, intramuscular, subcutaneous, or intradermal injection.

Skin scarification generated more T cells, produced greater numbers of lung-specific T cells, and provided superior protection against lethal viral doses than the others, the authors noted in their study.

"We used to think that lung-homing T cells could only be generated by a direct lung infection, but here we find overlap between T cells appearing after lung infection and T cells generated through skin scarification," said Kupper.

The authors further mentioned that their work is preclinical -- until clinical trials are conducted in humans, it's unknown if the phenomenon can be replicated in people as well.

Kupper’s lab intends to explore the potential for using the skin scarification technique to develop more powerful -- and, potentially universal -- vaccines against other infectious illnesses such as influenza and coronaviruses.

"We have known for a while that you can programme T cells to go where you want them to go in the body -- if you want protective T cells in the lungs, this is one way to achieve that. It is a serendipitous finding, but it seems to work very well," said Kupper in the study.

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Published on January 28, 2021
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