Therapeutic HIV vaccine in clinical trials

Most HIV vaccines in development are designed to protect people against infection. However, a vaccine in development in Antwerp is focusing on harnessing individuals' own immune systems to target and suppress the AIDS virus. The report is published in AIDS.

The researchers took dendritic cells (the cells that present antigens to the rest of the immune system) from 6 seropositive patients who were well-controlled on highly active antiretroviral therapy and loaded them with mRNA coding for Gag and Tat-Rev-Nef HIV proteins. The dendritic cells then expressed this HIV protein on their surface, and patients received four doses of their own 'loaded' cells with four-week intervals.

There were few side effects from the vaccinations, and all patients showed an increased immune response to the target HIV proteins. The patients' immune systems also inhibited re-infection with a number of different HIV strains.

According to the researchers, some patients had an incomplete response, but they think the approach has potential. And the results have suggested targets for future improvement, including increasing the spectrum of antigens used in the vaccine and enhancing the immune response.

- read the press release
- check out the abstract