TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 27, 2016

New strategy may improve HIV vaccine development

Researchers at the Oregon Health & Science University published findings in Science on Friday that highlight a new method to help the human body better react to the highly evasive HIV virus.

HIV is a virus that has no vaccine or known cure, which is in due in part to its elusive nature. The HIV virus works by tricking the antibodies inside the human body into thinking that the virus is a beneficial organism. It then takes over the white blood cells and uses them to attack the body.

The research focused on the CD8+ T cells, which are the sentries of the immune system and pick out harmful pathogens. Dr. Louis Picker, associate director of the OHSU Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute, and other researchers developed a strategy to enhance the T cells capability to pick out harmful pathogens, possibly allowing for them to detect HIV.

"A major challenge in developing an effective HIV vaccine is figuring out how to target this evasive virus," Picker said.

Picker and the other researchers found that CMV, a common virus, may hold the key. They modified a CMV cell to carry characteristics of HIV. The results shows that after being shown the modified CMV virus, the T cells were able to recognize three times more HIV viruses than before.

"We hope we can begin clinical trials in human patients within a few years," Picker said. "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."