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Stem cell-reliant HIV vaccine launches animal studies in January

Texas Biomedical Research Institute is fielding the effort, seeking patent
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Scientists at the Texas Biomedical Research Institute have big plans for a new treatment designed to help stop the transmission of HIV. The San Antonio Express-News reports that in January they'll start testing a genetically engineered vaccine in rhesus monkeys that interacts with epithelial stem cells to do its job.

Additionally, they've also applied for a patent for a single-dose HIV vaccine--one that would ideally last for a lifetime, by helping to stop the spread of HIV during sexual intercourse.

The team came up with a vaccine designed to hit stem cells in the mucosal layers of the epithelium with dead pieces of HIV, according to the story. The hope is that the stem cells would keep the HIV antigen as they morph into other skin cells and create an immune response that leaves a protective cell barrier.

Plans call for testing the vaccine with injections in the vagina, rectum, mouth or skin. After that, the scientific team will infect the monkeys with HIV to see how well the vaccine works. (It has already shown promise in the lab.) If all goes well, they will know if there is even greater promise here by 2015.

We'll wait to hear more, of course, but there are many years of animal testing ahead to know if there is enough promise to move into human trials. The Texas effort joins a number of research projects in both animal and human studies, and the race to have an approved HIV vaccine for people. Who will get there first? It's still too early to tell.

- read the full story

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