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Scientists Spot Source of Hurdle to AIDS Vaccine

Immune system turns off antibodies that could block HIV, study finds

FRIDAY, Dec. 18 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers have identified the cause of a major hurdle in efforts to develop an AIDs vaccine.

In tests with mice, the scientists found that the immune system can produce B cells with the potential to make powerful antibodies against HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. But the immune system mistakenly perceives these cells as harmful and destroys them before they have a chance to mature.

The study was published in this week's online issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"This work may mean that we need to think and act very differently in envisioning how a successful vaccine may work," study author Laurent Verkoczy, an assistant professor of medicine at Duke University Medical Center, said in a news release from the school.

"The good news is that while about 85 percent of the 'right' kind of B cells are eliminated, about 15 percent survive and wind up in circulating blood, but are turned off. One goal in vaccine design may be to figure out how to wake them up so they can go to work," Verkoczy explained.

The researchers plan to conduct mouse studies to test ways to teach the immune system to allow production of antibodies that can block HIV.

More information

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has more about AIDS vaccines.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Duke University Medical Center, news release, Dec. 15, 2009

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