Fooling the Immune System Into Producing an HIV Vaccine
The Bill and Melinda Gates foundation are funding research being done at Ruhr-Universität Bochum by researchers being led by Dr. Klaus Überla. The funding comes to the sweet tune of 2.3 million dollars over the course of the next 3 years. What research is worth sinking those kinds of funds into? Research is being done to try and find an HIV vaccination.
The STEP study, performed a few years back, actually resulted in a greater susceptibility to HIV. Studies like that may have seemed to set back the process of developing a vaccine; however, Überla believes that it is important to build on such studies, see why they had the negative effect that they did, and use that information to find the correct solution. In vivo testing is the next step for the vaccine being developed by this new team of researchers.
There are already studies that show that adding a particular protein to the right point on the shell of the virus can prevent it from entering human cells. The CD4 T helper cells are vital in the production of such antibodies. They are responsible for signaling other cells, when they recognize a disease, to begin making the correct antibodies. The problem is that these cells are where HIV grows the faster. Therefore, when CD4 cells begin to multiply to create antibodies, the HIV advances more quickly.
Now researchers are hoping to fool the T cells in fighting HIV without also helping it. Rather than using T cells designed specifically for HIV, which consequently also spread the disease more quickly, they are hoping to use T cells that are made for other pathogens. The result would be an attack on HIV from the T cells, without the spread of the disease via HIV specific T cells. Researchers hope this will lead to immunization for HIV in the future.