The findings suggest that the research conducted will be useful in enhancing the development of the HIV vaccine and can also be used to improve other viral pathogens.
New study findings suggest a natural technique that finds protein fragments to stimulate the immune system in order to recognize and attack HIV could be effective, according to research published by Johns Hopkins Medicine.
According to a study conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO), 38 million individuals globally live with HIV and 1 million more people are infected each year. The individuals infected by HIV must remain on their medication to prevent the development of AIDS.
The research team published a recent study suggesting that they may have developed an effective HIV vaccine—something that scientist have expended much time to advance.
“If we can identify which epitopes are ‘immunodominant’—the ones that elicit the strongest immune system response to the virus—then we may have the essential ingredients for the long-sought recipe to make an effective HIV vaccine,” said senior study author Scheherazade Sadegh-Nasseri, PhD, in a press release.
Using a laboratory technique created at Johns Hopkins Medicine, the study researchers replicated the cellular environment in which specialized immune cells called antigen presenting cells (APCs) break down proteins derived from HIV and make them visible to the immune system’s frontline of defense, cells known as CD4+ T lymphocytes, or helper T cells.
In the press release, Sadegh-Nasseri explained that if these epitopes are immunodominant, the ones that present the strongest immune system response to the virus will act as a crucial ingredient to an effective HIV vaccine.
However, Sadegh-Nasseri noted that in the past, these immunodominant epitopes have been confirmed to be unreliable due to the use of a “brute-force” system that relied on hope that some of the synthetic peptides representing HIV would stimulate an immune response. The most recent system of cell-free antigen processing replicates how these epitopes are truly processed and presented with all elements that may occur.
“This enabled us to study nearly the entire HIV proteome [all of the proteins produced by the virus] and distinctly identify epitopes that are selected for presentation to CD4+ T cells by a chaperone protein called HLA-DM,” said candidate in immunology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and lead study author, Srona Sengupta MD, PhD, in the press release. “That’s important because we know that HIV epitopes processed and edited by HLA-DM are immunodominant.”
According to the findings, 35 epitopes were identified in the recent study.
The researchers said their analysis revealed 3 important results. Firstly, it recognized that the identified epitopes were generated in individuals who are HIV-positive and lead to the development of memory CD4+ T cells. It also identified that the novel system used could be very beneficial in predicting the parts of the HIV proteins that can lead to immunodominant epitopes. Finally, it showed that the impact of any cellular environmental influences that can be taken into account due to the systems use of natural proteins.
The findings suggest could be useful in enhancing the development of the HIV vaccine and could also be used to improve other viral pathogens.
Researchers Use ‘Natural’ System to Identify Proteins Most Useful for Developing an Effective HIV Vaccine. News release. Johns Hopkins Medicine. May 30, 2023. Accessed June 22, 2023. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/news/newsroom/news-releases/researchers-use-natural-system-to-identify-proteins-most-useful-for-developing-an-effective-hiv-vaccine