Stanford researchers have taken us one step closer to a universal flu vaccine

Getting a yearly flu jab isn’t ideal, but it is necessary. The reason we need to keep topping up on flu vaccines is because the virus continually changes. That means that immunity to last year’s flu virus doesn’t mean anything here in 2019. A number of research labs and universities around this world are working to change this, however, with approaches that range from DNA vaccines to investigations with so-called “killer” T cells.

Now researchers from Stanford University have thrown their hat in the ring with a brand-new approach, which has already proven successful in lab animal tests. “It could be important for coming up with a universal flu vaccine that would protect against pandemic flu,” renowned biochemist Peter Kim, who led the work, said in a statement.

The pioneering approach involves getting the body to recognize a portion of the virus which stays the same, despite the virus’ continuing mutations. In addition to influenza, this could also prove to be a useful approach for combating HIV. Until now, flu vaccines have involved injecting people with either a killed virus or single protein that is found on the virus’ surface. The body’s immune system learns to recognize pieces of this, and can therefore respond if it is attacked by the same virus. What is much harder to achieve is to get the immune system to detect the parts of the virus which don’t change over time.

The Stanford researchers’ breakthrough centers around a protein called a monoclonal antibody, which binds specifically to the spot on the flu virus protein they wanted to recognize. Lab animals that received the flu protein demonstrated an immune response to various strains of flu, rather than just the single strain you would ordinarily expect with a vaccine. Animals that received the regular vaccine did not respond in this way.

While there is still more work to be done before this can move on to human trials, or potential commercialization, it’s an exciting breakthrough which could be applied to a number of different infectious agents.

A paper describing the work was recently published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Computing

Why recent hacks show Apple’s security strength, not its weakness

It may sound strange, but the recent stories about vulnerabilities in Apple’s security could be good news for the firm. That’s because they went a long way to highlighting its strengths -- and the strengths it has traditionally had over…
Emerging Tech

Genetically modified plants could help get to the root of climate change

Researchers have been investigating ways to engineer plants so that they grow with more robust and deeper roots, capable of storing increasing amounts of carbon underground for longer.
Emerging Tech

Impossible Foods looks to make another splash with fishless fish

Impossible Foods is currently developing fishless fish, in response to the growing demand for plant-based food. The product will include heme, a protein from genetically modified yeast that was also used in the Impossible Burger.
Emerging Tech

Bacteria could help mass-produce wonder material graphene at scale

Researchers from the U.S. and the Netherlands have figured out how to produce wonder material graphene by mixing oxidized graphite with bacteria. Here's why their work could be a game-changer.
Emerging Tech

Watch live: Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins reflect on the moon landing

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the famous Apollo 11 mission, NASA will hold a live broadcast featuring a retrospective and presentations by the astronauts involved. You can watch the event live on July 16 at 6:15 a.m. PT.
Emerging Tech

SpaceX finally knows what caused its Crew Dragon capsule to explode

SpaceX and NASA say they finally know what caused its Crew Dragon capsule to explode during an April test of the spacecraft’s thruster system. It's now unlikely that the capsule will be used for crewed spaceflight before the end of the…
Emerging Tech

This compact drone gun can down a rogue quadcopter at 500 meters

The latest drone gun from DroneShield is its most compact yet and can be easily operated with one hand. The DroneGun MkIII can tackle rogue drones up to 500 meters away, using jamming technology to take control of the machine.
Emerging Tech

Space food: Humble chili pepper to become first fruit grown in space

The Española chili pepper could become the first fruiting plant to be grown and harvested in space. If successful, it will expand the range of foods able to be used for future, more ambitious missions to planets such as Mars.
Emerging Tech

Photorealistic A.I. tool can fill in gaps in images, including faces

Researchers have developed a smart new A.I. system which can accurately fill in blank areas in an image, whether that’s a missing face or the front of a building. Here's how it works.
Emerging Tech

See how a life-sized astronaut was built from LEGO bricks

LEGO has unveiled a life-sized model of an astronaut constructed entirely from bricks, as well as a time lapse video of the model being built. It is based on the suit Neil Armstrong wore when he made his historic small step.
Digital Trends Live

Digital Trends Live: Twitter’s redesign, Libra’s possible delay, Neuralink

On this episode of DT Live, we take a look at the biggest trending stories in tech, including a Twitter redesign, Facebook's delay of Libra, Neuralink's first public event, growing food in space, and the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11.
Emerging Tech

Elon Musk’s Neuralink wants to start operating on human brains next year

Elon Musk shed more light on his Neuralink company on Tuesday, revealing new technology for brain surgery that would allow people with paralysis to use thoughts to control smartphones and computers. But that wasn't all ...
Emerging Tech

It sounds like utter madness, but you can now buy a flamethrower drone

The TF-19 WASP Flamethrower Drone is a quadcopter attachment for drones which, according to its creators, 'allows users to ignite aerial and ground targets from miles away.' What could go wrong?
Photography

With object tracking, the lightweight DJI Ronin-SC is still heavy on features

Designed for mirrorless cameras, the DJI Ronin-SC packs several features from the Ronin-S -- and then some -- into a lighter, one-handed gimbal. Despite the smaller size, the DJI Ronin-S adds new object tracking and expanded remote control.