Arts & Sciences

Building better vaccines for the elderly

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As human lifespans have gotten longer, certain proteins in our bodies are increasingly prone to take on alternative shapes. These misfolded proteins can ultimately trigger neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Lou Gehrig’s disease, formally known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

Meredith Jackrel, PhD, assistant professor of chemistry in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, and her lab group study protein misfolding disorders. They are especially interested in how protein misfolding occurs, how it leads to disease and how scientists might be able to prevent or even reverse protein misfolding. Their work promises applications in flu vaccines as well as in the current coronavirus pandemic.

In this Q&A, Jackrel describes how her lab’s expertise in protein misfolding and neurodegenerative diseases has made them uniquely qualified to work on developing new amyloid-inspired vaccine technologies aimed at elderly populations.

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