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OHSU research highlights promising strategy to help vaccines outsmart HIV
Date:5/24/2013

PORTAND, Ore. A new discovery at Oregon Health & Science University highlights an ingenious method to ensure the body effectively reacts when infected with the highly evasive HIV virus that causes AIDS. The same team of researchers has been utilizing this unique approach to develop its own HIV vaccine candidate, which has so far shown promising results in animal studies. This latest research finding will be published in the May 24, 2013, edition of the journal Science.

"A major challenge in developing an effective HIV vaccine is figuring out how to target this evasive virus," said Dr. Louis Picker, M.D., associate director of the OHSU Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute, where the work was conducted.

CD8+ "cytotoxic" T cells are an important component of the immune system and are particularly important for pathogens, like HIV, that easily evade antibodies. They serve as sentries within the body that detect and destroy virus-infected cells, accomplishing this function by recognizing short viral peptides on the surface of infected cells. T-cells are designed to be quite frugal in the number of different viral peptides they recognize, typically responding to just a handful of such peptides. This is a problem for control of HIV, which is able to able change its peptides and thus escape T cells responses that do not target the relatively few functionally critical peptides that can't change without debilitating the virus. In the vast majority of HIV infections, the few viral peptides recognized by T cells are not the vulnerable ones, and the virus escapes.

Therefore, the strategy that Dr. Picker and his colleagues adopted was to try to develop a vaccine to increase the number of viral peptides that T cells would recognize, reasoning that increasing this "recognition breadth" would allow T cells to more effectively respond to HIV.

The researchers found that cytomegalovirus or CMV, a common virus already carried by a large
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Contact: Jim Newman
newmanj@ohsu.edu
503-494-8231
Oregon Health & Science University
Source:Eurekalert

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