Off the beaten path: Novel mRNA-nanoformulations for therapeutic vaccination against HIV.
Over the last few years, immunotherapy for HIV in general and therapeutic vaccination in particular, has received a tremendous boost, both in preclinical research and in clinical applications. This interest is based on the evidence that the immune system plays a crucial role in controlling HIV infection, as shown for long-term non-progressors and elite controllers, and that immune responses can be manipulated towards targeting conserved epitopes. So far, the most successful approach has been vaccination with autologous dendritic cells (DCs) loaded ex vivo with antigens and activation signals. Although this approach offers much promise, it also comes with significant drawbacks such as the requirement of a specialized infrastructure and expertise, as well as major challenges for logistics and storage, making it extremely time consuming and costly. Therefore, methods are being developed to avoid the use of ex vivo generated, autologous DCs. One of these methods is based on mRNA for therapeutic vaccination. mRNA has proven to be a very promising vaccine platform, as the coding information for any desired protein, including antigens and activation signals, can be generated in a very short period of time, showing promise both as an off-the-shelf therapy and as a personalized approach. However, an important drawback of this approach is the short half-life of native mRNA, due to the presence of ambient RNases. In addition, proper immunization requires that the antigens are expressed, processed and presented at the right immunological site (e.g. the lymphoid tissues). An ambivalent aspect of mRNA as a vaccine is its capacity to induce type I interferons, which can have beneficial adjuvant effects, but also deleterious effects on mRNA stability and translation. Thus, proper formulation of the mRNA is crucially important. Many approaches for RNA formulation have already been tested, with mixed success. In this review we discuss the state-of-the-art and future trends for mRNA-nanoparticle formulations for HIV vaccination, both in the prophylactic and in the therapeutic setting.Copyright © 2020. Published by Elsevier B.V.