Dana-Farber finds new AIDS vax target

The Dana-Farber Cancer Institute is making progress toward an AIDS vaccine thanks to a relatively stable portion of the virus' protein envelope. By targeting the protein strand, called the V3 loop, with a monoclonal antibody, researchers may have found a vaccine that will prevent infection from multiple HIV clades.

Scientists used the monoclonal antibody from a man who has been HIV-positive for 10 years without AIDS symptoms and injected it into rhesus monkeys. The monkeys were exposed to a form of HIV known as SHIV. According to preclinical results published in the PLoS One, the vaccine prevented the virus from attaching and infecting other cells in any of the monkeys.

"The big problem with so many millions of HIV virus out there is there needs to be a way to target the common theme," said Harvard Medical School Professor Ruth Ruprecht, senior author of the study, to the Harvard Crimson. "This is a step in the direction of identifying targets for vaccines... The next step is to see if we can focus active immunization on the portion of the [virus] that is conserved."

Unfortunately, the antibody therapy probably won't offer long-term protection against HIV infection, since the antibodies remain in a person's system for a relatively brief time. But researchers hope the V3 loop will provide them with more significant results in further studies.

- see the Dana-Farber release
- read the Daily News & Analysis coverage
- here's a story from the Harvard Crimson