Scientists from the University of Missouri and Imperial College London have found evidence suggesting why vaccines directed against the virus that causes AIDS and many cancers don't work. In research spanning more than a decade, Gary Clark, associate professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Women's Health in the MU School of Medicine, and Anne Dell, an investigator at Imperial College London, found that HIV, aggressive cancer cells, H. pylori, and parasitic worms known as schistosomes carry the same carbohydrate sequences as many proteins produced in human sperm.
"It's our major Achilles heel," says Clark. "Reproduction is required for the survival of our species. Therefore we are 'hard-wired' to protect our sperm and eggs as well as our unborn babies from any type of immune response. Unfortunately, our results suggest that many pathogens and tumor cells also have integrated themselves into this protective system, thus enabling them to resist the human immune response."
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