News / Health

Scientists Make Strides Toward AIDS Vaccine

Scientists have discovered why some people who are infected with HIV progress to AIDS very slowly, if ever.  They possess a gene that produces a potent immune response that keeps the infection at bay.  Researchers say their finding might someday lead to an AIDS vaccine.

About one in 200 people infected with HIV are so-called elite controllers, HIV-positive people who do not progress to AIDS, even without drugs, after many decades of being infected with the virus that causes AIDS.

Researchers have identified a protective mechanism produced by a gene called HLA-B57 that is found in elite controllers.  

The gene produces large numbers of immune system T cells, a type of infection-fighting white blood cell,  that latch on to cells that have been taken over by HIV, including mutated copies of the virus, and contain the damage caused by the disease.

Once activated, the programmed T cells also scour the rest of the body for other HIV-infected cells and kill them.

In previous research, scientists identified another gene in elite controllers called HLA-B27.  The presence of either gene seems to stave off AIDS in people infected with HIV.

Chemical engineer Arup Chakraborty, at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, developed a computer model of T cell development though the thymus, an organ behind the breast bone that conditions immune cells to recognize infections.

"Our findings suggest that the T cells that pass and come out of the thymus in people with HLA-B57 or HLA-B27 tend to be able to bind more strongly to strains of HIV that are infecting strains as well as mutants that emerge.  So their T cells repertoires are somewhat different," said Chakraborty.

A study of nearly 2,000 HIV infected patients - with and without the HLA genes - confirmed that those who lacked the genes did not have the immune system brake and they progressed to AIDS.

Scientists discovered the effect of elite controllers in HIV-positive patients during the late-1990s.  Since then, they have been trying to identify the immune system component that shields elite controllers from AIDS, so they can develop a vaccine.

Leading efforts to understand this rare group of HIV-infected people is Bruce Walker, an AIDS researcher at Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital, and co-author of the study.

Dr. Walker says the problem with developing a vaccine is that HIV is like a moving target, mutating rapidly after someone is infected and causing inevitable decline.

But Dr. Walker says the fact that the HLA-B57 and HLA-B27 genes control the virus, even as it mutates in some HIV-positive patients, might make an AIDS vaccine a reality.

"I think the fact that there are people out there that can be infected with HIV and successfully control it for decades tells me that this is a virus that we can get the upper hand with.  And I think this is a solvable problem," he said.

However Dr. Walker cautions that an AIDS vaccine is at least a decade away.

An article describing the genetic mechanism that slows progression of the AIDS virus is published this week in the journal Nature.

You May Like

Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Seen as a potential driver of recovery, Cairo’s plan to expand waterway had been raising hopes to give country much needed economic boost More

Ebola Maternity Ward in Sierra Leone First of its Kind

Country already had one of world's highest maternal mortality rates before Ebola arrived, virus has added even more complications to health care More

Malaysia Flight 370 Disappearance Ruled Accident

Aircraft disappeared on March 8, 2014; with ruling, families of 239 passengers and crew can now seek compensation from airline More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Groundbreaking Hand-Painted Documentary About Van Gogh in Productioni
X
George Putic
January 29, 2015 9:43 PM
The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Groundbreaking Hand-Painted Documentary About Van Gogh in Production

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Web

Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Freedom on Decline Worldwide, Report Says

The state of global freedom declined for the ninth consecutive year in 2014, according to global watchdog Freedom House's annual report released Wednesday. VOA's William Gallo has more.
Video

Video MRI Seems to Help Diagnose Prostate Cancer, Preliminary Study Shows

Just as with mammography used to detect breast cancer, there's a lot of controversy about tests used to diagnose prostate cancer. Fortunately, a new study shows doctors may now have a more reliable way to diagnose prostate cancer for high risk patients. More from VOA's Carol Pearson.
Video

Video Smartphones About to Make Leap, Carry Basic Senses

Long-distance communication contains mostly sounds and pictures - for now. But scientists in Britain say they are close to creating additions for our smartphones that will make it possible to send taste, smell and even a basic touch. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video Crowded Republican Presidential Field Off to Early Start for 2016

It seems early, but the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign is already heating up. Though no one has officially announced a candidacy, several potential Republican contenders have been busy speaking to conservative groups about making a White House run next year. Many of the possible contenders are critical of the Obama administration’s foreign policy record. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid