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Science Papers Examine Vitiligo Pathogenesis, CRIPSR Platform for SARS-CoV-2 Vaccine Design

Using single-cell RNA sequencing, a team led by scientists from the University of Massachusetts Medical School have gained new insights into vitiligo, a skin disorder characterized by the elimination of melanocytes by CD8+ T cells. The investigators performed scRNA-seq on affected and unaffected skin from patients with vitiligo as well as healthy controls to define the role of each cell type in coordinating autoimmunity during disease progression. As reported in this week's Science Translational Medicine, they find that type I cytokine signaling is a key driver of disease progression and that this signaling pathway was also used by regulatory T cells (Tregs) to limit disease in non-lesional skin. CCR5-CCL5 signaling was found to be critical to effector CD8+ T cell and Treg function, and mouse studies showed that disease suppression required CCR5 expression on Tregs. "Our data provide critical insights into the pathogenesis of vitiligo and uncover potential opportunities for therapeutic interventions," the researchers write. GenomeWeb has more on this, here.

A CRISPR-based platform for designing SARS-CoV-2 vaccine candidates is reported in Science Advances this week. Developed by researchers from the Catholic University of America and Virovax, the platform uses CRISPR to engineer various viral components into compartments of bacteriophage T4. These include expressible spike genes in the genome, spike and envelope epitopes as surface decorations, and nucleocapsid proteins in the packaged core. One phage decorated with spike trimers showed efficacy in animal models without an adjuvant, stimulating robust immune responses, blocking virus-receptor interactions, neutralizing viral infection, and conferring complete protection against viral challenge. The vaccine design framework, the scientists write, might "allow the rapid deployment of effective adjuvant-free phage-based vaccines against any emerging pathogen in the future."