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Lukai Zhai, Ph.D. candidate
Department of Biological Sciences
A Hybrid HPV L2 Epitope Displayed on Phage Virus-Like Particles is Protective against Six HPV Types
Human papillomaviruses (HPVs) are the most common sexually transmitted infections causing human neoplasias such as genital warts and cancers. Persistent infection with high-risk HPV types is the main cause of cancer progression. Although three prophylactic vaccines have been approved to protect against HPV infections, these vaccines protect mostly against HPV types included in the vaccines. The recently approved second-generation HPV vaccine -- Gardasil-9 -- protects mostly against nine HPV types that cause 90% of cervical cancers and more than 80% of other HPV-associated anogenital cancers. There are no recommendations for persons who had completed their doses of first-generation HPV vaccines. As a result, recipients of first generation HPV vaccines are protected only against HPV types that cause 70% and 53-79% of cervical and penile cancers, respectively. With this in consideration, there is still a need to develop an improved HPV vaccine. Our group had previously shown that immunization with MS2 bacteriophage virus-like particles (VLPs) displaying a single conserved L2 epitope offered suboptimal protection from vaginal infection with diverse HPV types associated with cancer. To enhance protection against these HPV types, we have developed bacteriophage VLPs displaying a hybrid epitope from HPVs. Mice immunized with these VLPs elicit protective and neutralizing antibody responses -- similar to Gardasil-9 -- against six HPV pseudovirus types. Taken together, these results suggest that immunization with VLPs displaying a hybrid L2 epitope is an excellent approach to broaden protective antibody responses against multiple HPV types.
Biography: Lukai Zhai finished his bachelor’s degree majoring in biotechnology from Shandong Normal University, China in 2011. Then he continued his graduate student life in Shandong University. As a Master student, his research focused on the function of JNK-interacting protein-3 (JIP3) in neuronal development such as axon elongation. In 2014 Fall, he was accepted by department of biological sciences, Michigan Technological University as a Ph.D student working with Dr. Ebenezer Tumban. Currently, he is working on developing HPV L2 vaccines to broaden and enhance the protection against diverse HPV types.
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