An experimental new approach to HIV vaccination has completely protected monkeys from the HIV virus in trial tests.
In an approach considered ‘radical’, the Scripps Research Institute in California managed to manipulate the monkeys’ DNA to give their cells HIV-fighting properties.
The drug mimics an antibody in the patient’s immune system that may have more protective power than anything the body produces.
It works by injecting a subject with a harmless virus that prompts the body to create a protein of the researchers’ design. This protein can then block the parts of the HIV virus that latch onto the cells, preventing it from spreading.
The protein, called eCD4-IG, blocks the HIV strains from entering the immune system, effectively disabling it, the researchers said.
According to the scientists at the institute, the drug blocks every kind of HIV-1 and HIV-2 (in humans) as well as SIV (the virus in primates).
The study, published in Nature, has stated that the drug has managed to protect its rhesus monkey subjects from the HIV virus for 40 weeks thus far.
“This innovative research holds promise for moving us toward two important goals: achieving long-term protection from HIV infection, and putting HIV into sustained remission in chronically infected people,” said Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which funded the work.
“It also protects against much higher doses of virus than occur in most human transmission and does so for at least eight months after injection,” the institute said in a press statement. “The novel drug candidate is so potent and universally effective, it might work as part of an unconventional vaccine.”
Dr. Farzan said the monkeys remained infection-free even when given 16 times the amount of HIV virus that it took to infect the control group.
The researchers hope to begin human trials in the next year.
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