Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI), International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) and The Rockefeller University demonstarted, in mice, that experimental vaccine candidate designed at TSRI can stimulate the immune system activity necessary to stop HIV infection.
AIDs has caused an estimated 36 million deaths worldwide since its discovery in west-central Africa during the late nineteenth or early twentieth century.
In 2013 it resulted in about 1.34 million deaths. As of 2012, approximately 35.3 million people are living with HIV globally. HIV/AIDS is considered a pandemic—a disease outbreak which is present over a large area and is actively spreading. A vaccine if it ever made will be a miracle cure for those struggling with this harrowing disease – which is often complicated by an infection of the lung known as pneumocystis pneumonia, severe weight loss and even a type of cancer known as Kaposi’s sarcoma.
The research which was published in the journals Cell and Science, has been a long work in progress ro design a vaccinethat prompts the body to produce antibodies that bind to HIV and prevent infection.
While many vaccines for other diseases use a dead or inactive version of the disease-causing microbe itself to trigger antibody production, immunizations with “native” HIV proteins are ineffective in triggering an effective immune response, due to HIV’s ability to avoid detection from the immune system and mutate rapidly into new strains.
This challenge has led many researchers to believe that a successful AIDS vaccine will need to consist of a series of related, but slightly different proteins (immunogens) to train the body to produce broadly neutralizing antibodies against HIV-a twist on the traditional “booster” shot, where a person is exposed to the same immunogen multiple times.
In the new studies, the scientists experimented on one of these potential proteins, an immunogen called eOD-GT8 60mer, a protein nanoparticle designed to bind and activate B cells needed to fight HIV. The eOD-GT8 60mer was developed in the Schief lab and tested in mouse models engineered by the Nemazee lab to produce antibodies that resemble human antibodies.
Using a technique called B cell sorting, the researchers showed that immunization with eOD-GT8 60mer produced antibody “precursors,” with some of the traits necessary to recognize and block HIV infection. This suggested that eOD-GT8 60mer could be a good candidate to serve as the first in a series of immunizations against HIV.