Animal model replicates human response to HIV

By transplanting elements of the human immune system into an immunodeficient mouse, researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Harvard inched closer to reducing the time and cost required to test HIV candidate vaccines.

The humanized mouse was created by transplanting human bone marrow stem cells and human tissue, as noted by a study published in Science Translational Medicine.

Data covering the extent by which the cellular immune responses of humanized mice accurately reflect those seen in humans is sparse, according to the study. But when scientists infected the humanized mice with HIV-1, the T cell responses in the mice mirrored those of humans in specificity, kinetics, and immunodominance. Normally, HIV animal research takes place in the rhesus monkey, though that model does not replicate directly critical interactions between HIV and the human immune system.

"Our study showed not only that these humanized mice mount human immune responses against HIV, but also that the ability of HIV to evade these responses by mutating viral proteins targeted by the CD8 'killer' T cells is accurately reflected in these mice," said Todd Allen, senior author of the report, as quoted by Medical Xpress. "For the first time we have an animal model that accurately reproduces critical host-pathogen interactions, a model that will help facilitate the development of an effective vaccine for HIV."

The ability to study human immune responses to HIV in mice will surely slash time and money researchers spend testing candidate vaccines.

"We are currently studying whether we can induce human HIV-specific immune responses in these animals by vaccination, which would provide a rapid, cost-effective model to test the ability of different vaccine approaches to control or even block HIV infection. If we can do this, we'll have a very powerful new tool to accelerate HIV vaccine development, one that also may be useful against other pathogens," Allen said.

- see the abstract
- check out the Medical Xpress article

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