Scientists inject antibody-coding genes directly into muscles
SUNDAY, May 17 -- Raising hopes for the development of an AIDS vaccine that might actually work, researchers report they were able to protect monkeys against infection with simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV), the primate version of HIV.
They did so by using a novel approach that delivered antibody-producing genes directly to the animals' muscles. Typically, vaccines are aimed at ramping up the immune system to fight off infection, but this strategy eliminated that middle step.
"Traditional approaches toward developing an HIV vaccine that have worked for other viruses like influenza have just has not worked for HIV and, quite frankly, might not work for a long time or ever," explained the study's author, Dr. Philip R. Johnson, chief scientific officer at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and a professor of pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.
"But Mother Nature has allowed us a few breaks, in that we know that in a very few cases, people who have been infected for a very long time have been able to naturally develop antibodies that neutralize a lot of the circulating virus," he said. "So, we thought perhaps we could take the genes that represent these antibodies 'off the shelf,' so to speak, give them directly to patients and, in essence, bypass the immune system."
"So, first we worked through mice and showed we could do it with mice," Johnson explained. "And now we've shown that we can actually transfer these genes into monkeys and protect these animals from SIV."
The findings are in the May 17 online issue of Nature Medicine.
The researchers' efforts focused on preventing SIV infection in nine macaque monkeys who were "immunized" against SIV by inserting genes already known to express anti-SIV antibodies directly into the monkeys' muscles.
Once the genes were injected, they pr
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