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Keeping it the Same

Part of the allure of mRNA vaccines is the ease with which they can be updated, but that capability has not yet been utilized to combat new variants of SARS-CoV-2, WBUR reports, noting that vaccine developers have been working on Delta-specific vaccines.

But, according to WBUR, a Delta-specific vaccine might not add that much more protection. The original vaccines, which are targeted at the viral spike protein, provide a high degree of protection against severe disease and hospitalization from the Delta variant. Dan Barouch, an immunologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center who worked on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, tells it that Delta's spike protein isn't that different from that of the original strain. Instead, he tells it that Delta likely causes breakthrough infections through its high infectiousness and the sheer number of viral particles it produces.

At the same time, WBUR says that as there are currently vaccine doses going unused in the US and the introduction of a new, variant-specific vaccine might further undermine their adoption.

Instead, the Broad Institute's Bronwyn MacInnis tells it that the vaccines' reprogrammability might be best saved for any future variant with a more changed spike protein.

The Scan

Positive Framing of Genetic Studies Can Spark Mistrust Among Underrepresented Groups

Researchers in Human Genetics and Genomics Advances report that how researchers describe genomic studies may alienate potential participants.

Small Study of Gene Editing to Treat Sickle Cell Disease

In a Novartis-sponsored study in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers found that a CRISPR-Cas9-based treatment targeting promoters of genes encoding fetal hemoglobin could reduce disease symptoms.

Gut Microbiome Changes Appear in Infants Before They Develop Eczema, Study Finds

Researchers report in mSystems that infants experienced an enrichment in Clostridium sensu stricto 1 and Finegoldia and a depletion of Bacteroides before developing eczema.

Acute Myeloid Leukemia Treatment Specificity Enhanced With Stem Cell Editing

A study in Nature suggests epitope editing in donor stem cells prior to bone marrow transplants can stave off toxicity when targeting acute myeloid leukemia with immunotherapy.