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Sidra Medical and Research Center staff takes part in study to determine factors predicting an individual’s response to vaccination

Sidra Medical and Research Center today announced publication of a study in the Journal Cell, looking into factors which predict the way people respond to vaccination. Sidra’s Chief Research Officer Dr. Francesco Marincola and Division Chief of Translational Medicine Ena Wang took part in the study, which identified that age, genetics and environmental factors may all play a role in determining the way the immune system reacts to vaccination. Immunotherapy, a treatment which uses the body’s own immune system to treat or prevent disease, is a key area of research for Sidra and the study published in Cell is one of several recent advances in understanding the human immune system in normal and pathogenic (disease-causing) conditions.

In the study, healthy volunteers were immunized with the 2009 seasonal influenza vaccine and the 2009 H1N1 pandemic influenza vaccine, both of which have been widely used. The study was carried out on 63 of the volunteers and identified both the baseline characteristics of vaccine-induced coherent changes as well as individual heterogeneity (before vaccination) in response to the vaccination.

“Vaccination is one of the most powerful tools we have in the fight against disease, so understanding how different factors can affect the efficacy of vaccines is very important,” said Dr. Wang. “This study shows that there are significant variations among healthy individuals in response to a given vaccine at molecular, cellular and protein level and determining the existing baseline of an individual’s immune status is a strong predictor of his or her response to vaccination. Understanding these factors is key to developing our understanding of the immune system and the ways in which we can harness it to prevent and treat disease.”

Vaccination prevents debilitating illness and disability and saves millions of lives every year. To prepare the immune system for a particular disease, a vaccine will typically contain an agent that resembles a disease-causing microorganism which causes the immune system to react as if it’s fighting off disease without introducing its harmful properties into the system. The agent stimulates the body’s immune system to recognize the agent as foreign, destroy it, and “remember” it, so that the immune system can more easily recognize and destroy these microorganisms in the future when it encounters the same pathogens.

Dr. Wang joined Sidra in February of this year to lead the Division of Translational Research from the National Institutes of Health in the U.S., where she was Acting Chief of the Infectious Disease and Immunogenetics Section, as well as Associate Director of Trans NIH Center for Human Immunology. Discussing the implications of the study, she said, “Overall, the study provides a potential resource for understanding how the immune system response to vaccines varies depending on physiological conditions. The findings can function as a reference hub for pathologic conditions, such as autoimmune disorder, cancer immunotherapy and transplant rejection. With in-depth understanding of how the immune system functions in diverse conditions and in different individuals, we could, ultimately, be able to adapt a patient’s immune system and deliver personalized medicines for every individual.”

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