Study offers new hope for preventive vaccine for AIDS

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New research by Dana-Farber Cancer Institute scientists suggests that it may one day be possible to immunize healthy individuals against HIV-1, the virus that causes AIDS.

In a study published in the online journal Medical Immunology, investigators led by Dana-Farber’s Pedro Reche, Ph.D., and Derin Keskin, Ph.D., upend the long-held view that human immune system cells do not fully recognize HIV-1 following infection, and thus are unable to eliminate it from the body. The researchers found that lab-grown immune system cells from uninfected individuals are able to distinguish and respond to key HIV proteins. Cells taken from infected individuals, by contrast, were much less responsive to the virus.

If these findings hold true in follow-up studies, they suggest that exposing healthy people to HIV-1 proteins might train their immune systems to attack the virus and prevent them from developing AIDS if exposed to HIV-1 in the future, Reche said.

The research was funded in part by grants from the National Institutes of Health.