A New HIV Vaccine that Transforms Cell DNA

HIV-infected T cell.
Researchers at the Scripps Research Institute in California have managed to alter the DNA of Rhesus macaques to give their cells the ability to resist HIV.

Conventional vaccines that produce antibodies work slowly and are ineffective since the virus mutates very rapidly. HIV infects our T cells crucial for our immune system, killing them and causing a condition known as AIDS. But if the virus could be blocked from even entering the cell, then it couldn't replicate and mutate further.

Michael Farzan.
Using gene therapy the researchers managed to inject a section of new DNA into living muscle cells, using a harmless virus that causes no disease. Once inside the muscle cells, the drug turns those cells into "factories", producing proteins that bind with HIV virions, which then are rendered incapable of entering cells. The muscle cells can produce so much of the protein that the protective capability could last for years or maybe even decades. The monkeys were protected from all types of HIV for at least 34 weeks.

The new vaccine works so well that it could be used with people who already have HIV.

Lead researcher Prof Michael Farzan told the BBC: "We are closer than any other approach to universal protection, but we still have hurdles, primarily with safety for giving it to many, many people."

Share on Google Plus