New Jersey researchers are developing a “DNA virus vaccine” at Rutgers.

The composition of our DNA makes each of us unique. However, some viruses have their own DNA and can reproduce by making copies of their own DNA molecules.

Not all viruses work this way, as Rutgers New Jersey Medical School is quick to point out. It is now almost universally known that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is an RNA virus and its vaccines target this ribonucleic acid.

But in the same vein, Rutgers researchers are developing what they call a “DNA virus vaccine” that has so far been shown to be effective in mice against herpes simplex 1 and 2 and cytomegalovirus, the latter of which infects one in three children in the school, according to the school the United States at the age of 5.

Dabbu Jaijyan, a Rutgers research scientist and author of a study on this approach published in Cell Reports Methods, said the compound centanamycin is critical in breaking down the virus and immobilizing its growth potential.

“We first grow the virus in vitro, then purify the virus so that we only have virus particles, and then we treat those virus particles with the drug molecules,” Jaijyan said. “This molecule binds to the DNA of the virus and then depurinates the DNA of the virus, and then the DNA is purified after depurination.”

The altered version of the virus is weakened or weakened to the point where it can no longer reproduce.

“When the virus is damaged, the virus enters the cells, but it doesn’t replicate because the DNA is damaged,” Jaijyan said. “It will be limited to the vaccination site only.”

While the conversation about DNA changes might freeze some people, it’s the virus’s DNA that’s being altered, not the host’s, so Jaijyan said it’s been safe so far and it turns out to be the same when tested in humans .

“If you remove all drug molecules that aren’t bound to the DNA, only the molecules that are bound to the DNA get into the animal or into the cells. That reduces toxicity by 99%,” he said.

Another virus for which a vaccine has been developed, chickenpox, is also a DNA virus, but Jaijyan said there is potential for cytomegalovirus and other diseases that can be treated with Rutgers’ method.

The next step: clinical trials in the human population.

Patrick Lavery is a reporter and host for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at [email protected]

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