Catania: Virtual patient provides joker anti-flu vaccine

Developing a universal influenza vaccine thanks to a digital twin of the human immune system: this is the new frontier made possible by the virtual patient developed in Italy, at the University of Catania. The feasibility of this approach is demonstrated by a study coordinated by Francesco Pappalardo, from the University of Catania, within the activities of the In Silico medicine and Omics Data spoke 8 of the national Icsc Center, published in the Bmc Bionformatics journal.

Uiss is a digital copy of the human patient, specifically of their immune system, and is able to predict the effects of a pharmacological therapy without trial and error or testing on animals. This replica can be created based on the data of each specific individual,” said Pappalardo, an expert in computational biomedicine and co-leader of the Icsc’s spoke 8. Acronym for Universal Immune System Simulator, Uiss is the most advanced digital twin, a sort of perfect virtual replica, of the human immune system in the world and aims to open the doors to personalized medicine, developing drugs and therapies tailored to a specific patient.

“In the past – added Pappalardo – the vaccine development process essentially proceeded through trial and error.” After an initial in vitro experimentation to define possible strategies, animal tests were conducted to demonstrate the efficacy of the drug or vaccine. Only in the case of a positive outcome could human experimentation proceed. “These procedures require a lot of time and significant economic resources and do not guarantee full success,” added the Italian researcher.

“Today, thanks to bioinformatic support, we are able to rapidly extract the components that can better stimulate the immune response already in the genetic sequencing phase of the pathogen studied.” By creating a digital replica not only of the pathogen to be analyzed but also – and this is the great innovation – of the human immune system, Uiss potentially allows applications in all medical fields, concretely opening the doors to a new phase for medicine. A model that not only reproduces the interactions between the drug and the pathogen but simulates the complex orchestra of activities that occur in our body. After obtaining support from the European Medicines Agency Ema in January for studies on tuberculosis, the researchers from Catania now aim to validate Uiss for the study of influenza vaccines. The study specifically focused on the H5N1 virus, known as the avian influenza virus that can be transmitted to humans and is considered potentially very dangerous as it could trigger future pandemics. “H5N1 was chosen with the intention of building a unique influenza vaccine and with the goal of identifying a common antigenic component for all seasonal influenzas,” added Pappalardo.

Catania, dal paziente virtuale il vaccino jolly anti-influenza

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