ROCHESTER,Minn.— Researchers at Mayo Clinic are hacking the genetic code that controls the human response to vaccinations. They are using their findings to answer many of the questions that plague vaccinology, including why patients respond so differently to identical vaccines such as measles shots, how many doses an individual really needs, and how to minimize side effects.
Led by Gregory Poland, M.D., researchers in Mayo’s Vaccine Research Group are publishing results of two genetic studies that identify mutations linked to immune response to the measles vaccine. They appear in the journal Vaccine.
“We are trying to understand, to the maximum extent possible, how a person’s individual genetic makeup affects response to vaccination,” says Dr. Poland, the Mary Lowell Leary Professor of Medicine.
These and similar studies will likely soon let physicians prescribe appropriate doses and time vaccines based on routine genetic screening blood tests. Longer-reaching implications include development of more effective vaccines, and perhaps someday, personalized vaccines.
Doctors and epidemiologists have long been puzzled about why up to 10 percent of recipients fail to respond to the first dose of the measles vaccine, while another 10 percent generate extremely high levels of measles antibodies, and the rest fall somewhere in the middle.
“We have found that two doses of the vaccine seems to be sufficient to immunize the vast majority of the population against measles, so we do it to everybody even though it’s not technically necessary,” Dr. Poland says. “If we could tell, based on a genetic test of every patient, who would need one dose and who might need two or three, imagine the implications not only for measles vaccines, but for every vaccine.”
Ultimately, Dr.Polandand his team want to assemble a matrix of all the genetic mutations that affect immune response to vaccination on the roughly 30,000 human protein-coding genes. Such a library could help physicians predict how individuals will respond to different vaccines.
For more information, go to: http://www.mayoclinic.org/news2011-rst/6453.html