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Research into dengue vaccine gains ground using mice

Published on Sep 11, 2013 1:54 PM
 
(From left) Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART) senior scientist Dr Chen Qingfeng; Professor Jianzhu Chen, Ivan R. Cottrell Professor of Immunology at MIT, and SMART lead investigator of the Infectious Diseases Interdisciplinary Research Group; and SMART scientist Dr Aishwarya Sridharan have developed a humanised mouse model which will expedite the ongoing search for an effective drug or vaccine for  dengue. -- ST PHOTO: YEO SAM JO

Scientists are one step closer to developing a dengue drug and vaccine that will cover all four types of the mosquito-borne disease. There are currently no approved vaccines for dengue.

Researchers at the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART) have developed a humanised mouse model which will expedite the ongoing search for an effective drug or vaccine for the infection.

The research involves injecting immunodeficient mice with human fetal liver stem cells to replicate the human immune system in the test animals. After three months, the mice are injected with the virus.Through this method, researchers discovered that the drop in blood platelet count in a dengue-infected person is caused by the virus inhibiting the production of platelets in the bone marrow.

"This will allow us to better test any drug. If the mice are reacting to the drug, then there will be no platelet drop," said Dr Aishwarya Sridharan, 26, who is part of the research team. This is not the first time that a humanised mouse model has been used for dengue research, but previous studies were unable to detect the presence of human platelets in the mice.