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AIDS vaccine research offers new insights on survival

New insights into how a subpopulation of helper T-cells provides immunity and promotes survival following infection with an AIDS-like virus offer a new means of predicting an AIDS vaccine's effectiveness, a discovery that could help scientists as they test these vaccines in clinical trials.

Led by researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) and the Vaccine Research Center (VRC) at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, the findings appear in the June 9 issue of the journal Science.

"Over the last decade, we have created AIDS vaccines that generate T-cell populations that can combat HIV," explains lead author Norman Letvin, M.D., chief of the Division of Viral Pathogenesis at BIDMC, professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, and investigator at the NIAID VRC. "These latest findings now provide us with an important new way of looking at subpopulations of CD4 helper T-cells and suggest how they may be used as a marker to gauge the efficacy of these vaccines."

The work was spearheaded by Letvin and his colleagues at the VRC, which is dedicated to improving global human health through the rigorous pursuit of effective vaccines for human diseases such as AIDS. Since it was first identified 25 years ago, the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) has proven extraordinarily difficult to control. Attempts to develop an HIV vaccine that triggers the production of antibodies -- the mechanism responsible for vaccine protection against other viruses including polio and hepatitis B -- have been unsuccessful.

"HIV mutates so quickly it can evade antibody immunity," explains Letvin. Instead, Letvin and other scientists in this field have focused their work on developing a vaccine that confers cellular immunity, so that a group of T-cells induced by a vaccine recognizes the cells that have been infected by HIV and then destroys them so that the virus cannot continu
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Source:Harvard Medical School


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