Study reports progress toward AIDS vaccine

Posted on 12 Mar 2009 at 6:54pm
By Staff Reports

But Rutgers researchers say new tool isn’t currently potent enough

In a study published in the Journal of Virology, Rutgers AIDS researchers Gail Ferstandig Arnold and Eddy Arnold say they have made significant progress in the effort to develop an AIDS vaccine, according to reports published online at Physorg.com.

The husband-and-wife duo and their team, with support from the National Institutes of Health, say they have been able to isolate a piece of the human immunodeficiency virus that helps the virus enter cells, attach that piece of HIV to the surface of a common cold virus and then immunize animals with it.

They said the immunized animals can then develop antibodies capable of stopping an unusually diverse set of HIV isolates or varieties, Physorg.com reported.

In previous efforts, researchers had been able to elicit effective antibodies, but usually only against a very limited number of HIV types. HIV is able to quickly mutate and adapt, which means that antibodies that work against one strain of the virus often do not recognize or combat mutated varieties — a fact which has been one of the greatest challenges in finding a broad-spectrum AIDS vaccine.
The Arnolds said they have attempted to target a portion of the virus common to most varieties and crucial to its viability.

Gail Ferstandig Arnold told Physorg.com: "That is a mechanism that would not be easy for the virus to reinvent on the fly, so it turns out to be a really helpful target."

While most vaccines are actually made from the pathogen itself, employing weakened or inactivated organisms to stimulate antibody production, HIV is too dangerous to use that way. Eddy Arnold said what they have done in attaching a portion of HIV to the common cold virus is, in effect, "trick the immune system into thinking it is acting upon HIV before the virus shows actually shows up on the scene."

But the researchers warned against an overly optimistic reaction to their findings so far.

"It is probably not potent enough by itself to be the vaccine or a vaccine, but it is a proof of principle that what we are trying to do is a very sound idea," Eddy Arnold said.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 13, 2009.

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