A study published in the Science journal on Friday by a mixed team showcased the results of an experimental vaccine which seems to be on track of providing a safeguard against the spread of HIV, representing one of the biggest steps forward in this regard in history.
The HIV vaccine, developed by a combined team from The Rockefeller University, The Scrips Research Institute(TSRI) and the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) has had satisfactory results after being tested on mice, with its goal being to stimulate the production antibodies needed to stop or prevent HIV infection. The research was led by a trio consisting of TSRI Department of Immunology chair Dennis Burton, IAVI Director of Vaccine Design William Schief and Professor David Nemazee of TSRI.
The scientists are struggling to develop a vaccine which makes the body release antibodies which strap to virus before it is able to infect the patient. This has proved particularly tricky in the past as, unlike other viruses, the HIV cannot be fought with a dead version of its own microbe as it can rapidly avoid immune system detection and mutates at a very fast rate.
As a result, a successful vaccine against HIV will have to contain different proteins called immunogens which will stimulate the body to produce a broader range of antibodies at the same time to safeguard against the virus or prevent its spread. This process happens naturally in a low percentage of HIV patients who have a strong immune system, but the antibody range isn’t big enough to actually contain the virus. The vaccine should then help produce a broad enough range of such immunogens to effectively combat the microbe.
Apparently, production of these immunogens can be increased by triggering artificial immune system responses at first, which will then prompt it to adapt at the rate necessary to contain the HIV. Testing on mice showed that the vaccine managed to start the immune system response close to the necessary parameters, with the natural antibodies doing the rest.
The vaccine is still in its early experimental phases though, and it will require a broader range of immunogens if it is to successfully challenge HIV; the study’s researchers have immediately started tests in this regard. It will probably take years until a human version of the vaccine will be developed.
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