Sexual Health news - HIV

Vaccine discovery expected to target HIV

Oregon Health & Science University recently unveiled a potential breakthrough in the development of an HIV vaccine, which is expected to cause the body to respond appropriately when faced with the virus. 

Suppressing HIV
Louis Picker, M.D., associate director of the OHSU Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute, noted that the primary difficulty in developing an HIV vaccine is finding a means of locating and attacking the virus specifically, but her department's new discovery shows promising results in animal studies, possibly overcoming that obstacle. 

Cytocoxic T cells are able to detect short viral peptides on the surface of infected cells, helping them to recognize and eliminate the pathogens, namely HIV, that often escape antibodies. T cells in general let many viral peptides slide, which makes it possible for the virus to survive in the body. 

OHSU's findings
The researchers at OHSU worked to make the cells recognize more viral peptides through a vaccine, empowering them to better fight the virus. They found a possible answer in a virus that is common in many people, called cytomegalovirus. In animal studies, a strain of cytomegalovirus was found to increase the ability of T cells to recognize the non-human version of HIV, SIV. 

OHSU researchers suspect that a vaccine with cytomegalovirus could help post-infection in patients undergoing antiretroviral​ therapy in addition to being a preventative measure. The team hopes to customize the cytomegalovirus to widen the cells' ability to recognize more indicators of the virus. 

Antiretroviral therapy is defined by the National Institutes of Health as taking three or more anti-HIV medications daily. 

"We hope we can begin clinical trials in human patients within a few years," said Picker. "This new information gives us a much clearer roadmap for effectively targeting the disease which to this point has found ways to evade the human immune system." 

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