It seems that, with every setback in the war against AIDS, a push forward comes just as soon. While HIV-blocking gel tenofovir was recently declared “safe but ineffective,” there is a light on the horizon: experiments on rats have produced a promising vaccine. According to Ars Technica (bold ours):
Since these broadly neutralizing antibodies are the sorts of things we want out of the vaccination process, a team of labs at Caltech and UCLA decided to short-circuit the need for a vaccination, or even antibody-producing immune cells. They created a disarmed adenovirus that contained the genes needed to produce a broadly effective antibody from humans, optimizing the DNA to make sure that the antibody was made in muscle cells, and then secreted into their environment.
The modified virus was then injected into mice that had had their immune systems humanized (the stem cells in their bone marrow were killed off and then repopulated with human cells). The mice were then exposed to levels of HIV many times higher than are normally present during initial infections. Not all antibodies effectively blocked new infections, but at least one did so consistently. The resistance to new HIV infections persisted for the life of the experiments.
We’re not medical experts, but that sounds pretty promising. We’d like a clarification on the wording here, though. Are they saying one of the antibodies blocked infections consistently but not effectively? Like, is this antibody the equivalent of a goalie who manages to deflect soccer balls with his fancy gloves… but they still end up bouncing into the corner of the goal nevertheless and scoring a win for the nefarious HIV team?
Other promising news in the search for a vaccine includes a possible HIV-blocking anal gel.
Photo via lu_lu’s Flickr