UTSW seeks volunteers for HIV vaccine trial

Researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center announced on Friday, Sept. 10, that they are looking for people at high risk of contracting HIV to participate in a three-year, nationwide clinical trial intended to determine whether a combination of two potential HIV vaccines will stimulate an immune response against the virus.

Dr. Mamta Jain, assistant professor of internal medicine at UT Southwestern, will be principal investigator for the study locally. She said the trial is designed to determine whether the new combo-vaccine will reduce the HIV viral load of people who subsequently become infected with HIV, preventing the onset of AIDS. She said that the combo-vaccine is composed of man-made proteins found in HIV, not the virus itself, and stressed that participants could not contract HIV from the vaccine. She also said the combo vaccine is designed to produce T-cells and antibody responses against HIV, and that it has proven safe in animals and hundreds of human volunteers during previous clinical trials.

The trial, known as the HVTN 505 study, will include 1,350 volunteers nationally who will be assigned randomly to receive either the combo vaccine or a placebo. Researchers with the study locally are looking for 40-50 volunteers to participate through UT Southwestern. The next closest site where the trial is being conducted is the Alabama Vaccine Research Clinic in Birmingham, about 650 miles from Dallas.

Investigators are looking for healthy, HIV-negative men between 18 and 45 who have sex with men, and transgender women who have sex with men. Participants will receive three shots of the combo vaccine or a placebo, plus a booster shot, within the first six months. They will then be asked to return every three months over the next three years for an HIV test, an interview and risk reduction counseling.

The study, funded by the HIV Vaccine Trials Network, “may help us better understand why some people develop AIDS and others don’t,” Jain said. “If you could prevent people from getting sick with AIDS, that’s a tremendous accomplishment.”

For more information about the clinical trial, call 214-590-0610 or 214-590-0603, or go online to HopeTakesAction.org. Go online to UTSouthwestern.org/InfectiousDiseases for more information about UT Southwestern’s clinical services for infectious diseases.

—  admin

South Korean research shores up arguments that sexual orientation is genetic, as scientists create lesbian mice

Research conducted by Professor Chankyu Park and his team at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology in Daejon, South Korea, seems to once again shore up the argument that sexual orientation is genetic in nature, and not a matter of choice.

According to a story in the San Diego Gay and Lesbian News, after Professor Park and his team disabled a specific gene is certain female mice, those mice then refused to mate with male mice and instead insisted on trying to mate with other females. The gene in question was the “fucose mutarotase” gene — abbreviated as FucM. Considering the results, perhaps they should call it the Won’t FucM Gene.

Pardon me. I turned into a 12-year-old there for a second. Anyway. Back to science.

Park explained that the FucM gene influences the levels of hormones that the brain is exposed to, and that disabling this gene simply caused the altered female mice to behave as if they were male and develop a sexual attraction to other females. He and his team also noted that hormones don’t affect humans the same way they do mice, so they aren’t sure whether the study has any relevance when it comes to human sexuality.

Park did say he would like to study whether an enzyme produced by the FucM gene influences sexuality. But he acknowledged it may not be that easy to find human volunteers. (I guess the mice don’t really get to refuse to participate.)

Park’s study was published in BMC Genetics journal.

—  admin