Since the HIV infection was discovered 25 years ago, vaccine researchers have been stymied by the virus' ability to rapidly mutate. But Massachusetts General Hospital, MIT and Harvard University researchers say they may have found a way to bypass the disease's defense mechanism by targeting sections of HIV protein that could be undermined to change how the virus reproduces.
The researchers identified a group of co-evolving groups of amino acids within the protein and examined how they impacted the virus' survival. A group of amino acids, called sector 3, presented themselves as a possible vaccine target using this approach. The research was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Thirty-three million people worldwide are infected with AIDS, and the majority of them reside in the developing world. "Even though we have treatments, the number of people in need globally is outpacing our ability to provide these drugs," noted Harvard Medical School Professor lead author Bruce Walker. "The only real solution is development of an effective vaccine."
Special Report: Successes, failures mark 30 years of HIV/AIDS research