Mice with immunity offer new hope for HIV vaccine
Published 01/12/2011 | 05:00
As scientists struggle to find a vaccine to prevent infection with the AIDS virus, a study in mice suggests hope for a new approach -- one that scientists now want to test in people.
The treated mice in the study appeared to have 100pc protection against HIV. But that doesn't yet mean the strategy will work in people.
"This is a very important paper," says the US government's AIDS chief, Dr Anthony Fauci.
The study involved injecting mice with a protective gene, an idea that's been tested against HIV infection in animals for a decade.
Researchers reported the results in mice yesterday in the journal 'Nature'. They hope to test the approach in people in a couple of years.
Another research team reported similar success in monkeys in 2009.
A traditional vaccine works by masquerading as a germ, training the body's immune system to build specific defences.
Those defences are generally antibodies. Once that happens, the virus can't establish a lasting infection and is cleared from the body.
Scientists have identified antibodies that neutralise a wide range of HIV strains, but they've had trouble getting people's immune systems to create them with a vaccine.
Ordinary mice don't get infected with HIV, so the research used mice that carried human immune system cells.
Researchers couldn't completely rule out the possibility of infection, but said that their tests found no evidence of it.