A research team may have broken the stubborn impasse that has frustrated the invention of an effective HIV vaccine, by using an approach that bypasses the usual path followed by vaccine developers. By using gene transfer technology that produces molecules that block infection, the scientists protected monkeys from infection by a virus closely related to HIVthe simian immunodeficiency virus, or SIVthat causes AIDS in rhesus monkeys.
"We used a leapfrog strategy, bypassing the natural immune system response that was the target of all previous HIV and SIV vaccine candidates," said study leader Philip R. Johnson, M.D., chief scientific officer at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Johnson developed the novel approach over a ten-year period, collaborating with K. Reed Clark, Ph.D., a molecular virologist at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.
The study appeared today in the online version of Nature Medicine.
Johnson cautioned that many hurdles remain before the technique used in this animal study might be translated into an HIV vaccine for humans. If the technique leads to an effective HIV vaccine, such a vaccine may be years away from realization.
Most attempts at developing an HIV vaccine have used substances aimed at stimulating the body's immune system to produce antibodies or killer cells that would eliminate the virus before or after it infected cells in the body. However, clinical trials have been disappointing. HIV vaccines have not elicited protective immune responses, just as the body fails on its own to produce an effective response against HIV during natural HIV infection.
The approach taken in the current study was divided into two phases. In the first phase, the research team created antibody-like proteins (called immunoadhesins) that were specifically designed to bind to SIV and block it from infecting cells. Once proven to work against SIV in the laboratory, DNA representing
|Contact: Juliann Walsh|
Children's Hospital of Philadelphia