New Insights Into HIV Immunity Suggest Alternative Approach to Vaccines

Armen Hareyan's picture
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New insights by Duke University Medical Center researchers as to how HIV evades the human immune system may offer a new approach for developing HIV vaccines. The findings suggest some HIV vaccines may have failed because they induce a class of antibodies that a patient's own immune system is programmed to destroy.

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The Duke team discovered that certain broadly protective antibodies, which recognize and latch onto the HIV protein gp41, resemble antibodies made in autoimmune diseases. In most people, the immune system destroys these types of antibodies to prevent attacks against self.

The Duke study suggests HIV vaccines may have failed in part because certain proteins on HIV's protective outer coat trigger only short-lived, self-reactive antibodies instead of long-lasting, HIV-specific antibodies. The results also imply that during the initial infection stage in humans, HIV may escape destruction by the immune system because these seemingly vulnerable outer coat proteins activate self-reactive antibodies.

"The fundamental problem in all of HIV vaccine research has been that when you inject the envelope of the HIV virus into people or animals, no broadly neutralizing antibodies

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