Latest Developments in the Search for an HIV Vaccine


Novel strategy prolongs immune system defense against HIV.

Scientists have designed a vaccine that boosts immune cells responsible for the less exposed parts of HIV, prolonging the resistance of the immune system to the virus, according to a recent study.

In 2008, the investigators sought to develop a new vaccine strategy that could generate a strong immune response against weak immunostimulatory parts of the viruses. Initially, they focused on mice before experimenting with monkeys later.

For the current study, published in EBioMedicine, investigators demonstrated that this novel technology could control the simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) in monkeys. The findings indicate another step in the development of an HIV vaccine, as well as other chronic infections.

Typically, traditional vaccines work by stimulating parts of the immune system that are most responsive to the specific virus. However, the reaction to both the infection and the vaccine is often so intense that the immune system loses momentum, preventing it from completely clearing the virus.

With the new vaccine, the immune cells can distribute the work load and retain its defenses against the virus for a longer period. This process allows the immune system to build up better defenses that could defeat the rest of the virus.

“We’re presenting an entirely new vaccine solution,” said lead investigator Peter Holst. “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. In combination with other vaccines, this approach can prove to have a highly efficient effect.”

The investigators hope to achieve this result in all infected animals with the end goal being humans.

“The next phase of our work is to build virus control in all infected animals and later in humans,” Holst said. “We’re convinced that it’s possible to identify further improvements in our experiments and thus achieve a well-functioning vaccine, initially against HIV, but also against other chronic infections.”

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