Scientists have created astonishing images showing exactly what happens to the cells of a person injected with the Oxford AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine.
Images show how the shot forces the injected person’s own cells to make replicas of the true coronavirus spike, a glycoprotein, which protrudes from the surface.
The spikes on the surface of the host’s own cells are then recognized by the immune system as a foreign invader and attacked with antibodies.
The immune system remembers the shape of the spike and how to beat it, so that if someone does become infected in the future, they can fight the virus quickly.
Analysis of the spike protein replicas made by the human cells after injection with the Oxford shot reveals that the peaks induced by the vaccine are nearly identical to those of the virus
What’s in the Oxford vaccine?
The main component of the shot is the modified adenovirus, but this active ingredient is accompanied by other compounds in the injection.
For example, the vaccine also contains inactive ingredients such as polysorbate 80, an emulsifier and a very small amount of alcohol (0.002 mg per dose).
The vaccine also contains trace amounts of magnesium (3 to 20 parts per million).
The manufacturing process involves creating a virus that contains the genetic code for the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein.
But this is happening in small numbers, and researchers need a way to make millions of copies.
This requires a conveyor belt of host cells that replicate the adenovirus.
Traditionally this is done with chicken eggs. The modified virus is injected into the eggs, the oocytes increase copy number, and these are then attenuated or neutralized and extracted for the vaccine.
This method is used for some Covid-19 vaccines in development as well as flu shots.
However, some institutions have replaced chicken cells with human cell lines, including the Oxford-Astrazeneca team working on ChAdOx1 nCoV-19.
These cells are called HEK-293 and come from the kidney of a legally aborted fetus in 1973.
HEK-293 cells themselves are not the cells of the aborted fetus, but identical clones.
These cells are not injected into the vaccine, but are used to manufacture the modified virus before it is extracted.
The AstraZeneca shot is currently being criticized for alleged side effects that can cause blood clots in a very small percentage of people.
But the vaccine is very effective at protecting against Covid-19 and has been given to millions of Britons, with the 100 million doses ordered by the government making up a quarter of the UK’s supply.
Researchers from the University of Oxford teamed up with University of Southampton professor Max Crispin, an expert in virology and glycoproteins, to see how good their vaccine was at mimicking the coronavirus spike.
Human cells in a lab were exposed to the vaccine, and after two days, the researchers looked at the shape and structure of the imitation spikes.
The method of analysis is called cryo-electron microscopy (cryoEM) and thousands of images have been taken and combined as part of the study.
Study co-author Professor Peijun Zhang, from the University of Oxford led the imaging work.
“CryoEM is a tremendously powerful technique that allowed us to visualize the dense array of spikes fabricated and presented on the surface of the cells,” she said.
Analysis of the glycoproteins themselves revealed that the peaks caused by the vaccine are almost identical to those of the virus.
‘In this study we wanted to see how similar the peaks caused by the vaccine were those of the infectious virus.
“We were very happy to see a large number of native spikes,” said Professor Crispin.
This study will hopefully bring greater understanding to the public and help them see how the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine works.
Many people may not realize how their cells become tiny factories that produce viral spikes that then activate the immune response needed to fight the disease.
“This can also be a reassurance that the vaccine is doing its job and generating the material that we have to offer to our immune system.”
The study is published in the journal ACS Central Science
Scientists have created astonishing images showing exactly what happens to the cells of a person injected with the Oxford AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine. Pictured, an image based on the new image showing how the vaccine (left) turns the cells of a person injected into ‘tiny factories that produce viral spikes that then activate the immune response needed to fight the disease’ (right)
Professor Max Crispin previously discovered that the coronavirus (photo) is not as heavily protected or disguised as some viruses, such as HIV. He said the spike proteins are disguised by the virus, allowing them to be a ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing’
How does the Oxford Astrazeneca vaccine work?
The Oxford Astrazeneca vaccine is made with a chimpanzee cold virus known as an adenovirus.
It has been genetically modified to be harmless to humans.
Researchers have also modified the adenovirus to contain a copy of the genetic code of the SARS-CoV-2, which is responsible for making the Covid spike protein.
Spike proteins protrude from the surface of the coronavirus and cling to receptors on human cells, hijack the ACE2 pathway and infiltrate cells.
The spikes are also integral to how the body’s immune system recognizes and attacks the pathogen.
In the case of the vaccine, the chimpanzee adenovirus – as well as other ingredients to stabilize the solution – is injected into a person’s arm.
Once in the body, the harmless adenovirus infects the person’s own cells, which then read the virus’s embedded genetic code and produce spikes that get diseased from their own surface.
This is the most important step, as the spikes mimic the coronavirus, without any risk of infection or disease.
As a result, the human immune system marks it as an invader and starts attacking it, releasing white blood cells and trying to produce antibodies to neutralize the foreign object.
Once it does this, the immune system remembers how best to hold onto the spike protein and defeat the virus for future use.
Then, when someone contracts the real virus, their body reacts quickly and fights the infection. This is immunity.
This way of repelling viruses has been used for over a decade and has been used to make vaccines against other infections, such as the flu and MERS.
However, the method is slower to adapt than the other form of vaccine, which is based on mRNA, made by Pfizer / BioNTech and Moderna.
Subsequently, an Oxford vaccine that can target new variants won’t be ready until later this year.
The vaccine is called ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 and is given in two doses.
The second dose is given 4-12 weeks after the first dose.
The key to a successful vaccine is to make sure that the imitation spike protein it produces is as close to that of the real virus as possible.
There are several ways to do this, including both Pfizer / BioNtech and Moderna’s mRNA method and an inactivated whole virus.
But the Oxford / AstraZeneca shot uses a different technique based on a cold virus found in chimpanzees.
The team inactivated the monkey virus and put in it a piece of the genetic code of the coronavirus that is responsible for the production of the critical spike protein.
The coronavirus spike protein is how the virus infects humans. The nefarious protein attaches to and hijacks the common ACE2 receptor on human cells, using it as a gateway to infect human cells.
But while the spike protein is how SARS-CoV-2 infects humans, it’s also how it’s most easily recognized.
Once a person gets the Oxford shot, known as the ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccine, their cells become infected with the harmless modified chimpanzee virus.
Then, the person’s own cells read the coronavirus genetic code and produce a replica of the spike protein on their surface.
How closely these mimic spikes resemble those of the virus determines the robustness of a person’s immunity.
The concern for vaccine developers and academics is that new variants of coronavirus, such as those first noticed in Brazil and South Africa, have specific mutations that change the shape of the spike.
This, they say, could lower vaccine immunity, as the new peak seen in variants differs significantly from that of the vaccine.
Therefore, the person inoculated has antibodies that don’t work on the new strain, leaving them unprotected and vulnerable to infection.
Studies and trials have shown that the Oxford jab works against the emerging species, but not as well as against the original version of the disease and the Kent strain.
The shot is being scrutinized for a worrying link with blood clots in younger people. MPS said today that the UK’s drug regulator, the MHRA, urgently needs to complete its investigation into the link between the Covid vaccine and a rare brain blood clot called CVST.
Last night, the University of Oxford halted trials of the coronavirus vaccine in children until the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) reached a conclusion on its safety in younger people, with formal advice expected as early as today.
Health watchdogs are continuing to investigate the link between the shot and CVST, which can lead to stroke, and European medical regulators will release the conclusions of their investigation at 3pm.
Germany has already temporarily banned the vaccine for under-60s and France is taking the same controversial move for under-55s.