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article imageProgress made on developing HIV vaccine

By Tim Sandle     May 20, 2017 in Health
Scientists are edging closer towards the creation of a vaccine for the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). This has required a different approach to be taken towards vaccine design and development.
The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a type of retrovirus called a lentivirus. HIV infection leads, without treatment, to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), which is a progressive failure of the immune system. The global importance of the disease leads to a focus on treatments and vaccines.
While advances have been made with HIV treatments the aim of a preventative vaccine has remained something out-of-reach for biotechnologists. This could be about to change according to new studies from the University of Copenhagen’s Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences. An HIV vaccine is a vaccine which would either protect individuals who do not have HIV from contracting that virus, or otherwise may have a therapeutic effect for persons who have or later contract HIV/AIDS.
The new approach taken involves creating vaccines that boost the parts of the immune system attacking the viral genes which are the least active during the infection. Theoretically this novel approach increases the resistance of the immune system towards the virus.
With most vaccines the vaccine triggers stimulation of the immune system components responsive to a specific virus. However, the reaction to the vaccine and the infection is often too intense resulting in the immune system losing momentum, with the virus often surviving.
The new approach to the vaccine instead boosts the cells of the immune system responsible for tackling the less exposed parts of the virus. This leads to immune cells being able to attack the virus from different directions and also retain a defense against the virus attack over the longer-term. This means any remaining parts or particles of virus stands greater chance of being eliminated.
In this context, lead scientist Professor Peter Holst explains: “We're presenting an entirely new vaccine solution. Our vaccine supports the work of the immune system in developing an effective combating mechanism against the virus, rather than immediately combating the toughest parts of the virus.”
Successful trials have taken place on animals using a similar virus to HIV called simian immunodefiency virus. The success of these trials paves the way to attempting a vaccine for use against HIV, with the ultimate aim of testing the virus out on human subjects.
The research findings are published in the journal EBioMedicine, with the paper called “Mucosal Vaccination with Heterologous Viral Vectored Vaccine Targeting Subdominant SIV Accessory Antigens Strongly Inhibits Early Viral Replication.”
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