Researchers Identify Gene That Could Help Develop HIV/AIDS Vaccine
In an article published in the journal Science on Thursday, researchers announced that they have discovered a gene, called Apobec3, that might help in the development of an HIV/AIDS vaccine, Reuters Health reports. According to the researchers, Apobec3 helps mice develop antibodies against a virus that is similar to HIV. "The gene is crucial to HIV biology," lead author Warner Greene of the Gladstone Institutes at the University of California-San Francisco said. HIV uses one of its nine genes to disable Apobec3 proteins, which could explain why people living with HIV rarely make antibodies against the virus, Greene said, adding, "If we could prevent HIV from destroying this key pivotal host factor, we might allow HIV-infected patients to develop neutralizing antibodies like they do in mice."
Greene conducted the study with a team from NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. The researchers conducted a series of experiments during which they genetically engineered mice to lack the Apobec3 gene. According to Greene, when the researchers "knocked out the Apobec3 gene," the mice "lost their ability to recover from" infection with a virus that is similar to HIV, called the Friend virus. Greene said that the "challenge now" is to make a "translation from mice to men." According to Greene, "[b]locking this degradation of Apobec3 is probably the most promising new drug target in HIV biology." According to Reuters Health, most vaccines against viral diseases stimulate the body to make antibodies against the target virus. Greene said that HIV vaccine efforts primarily have focused on building up CD4+ T cells to attack the virus but are "not proving adequate." According to Greene, researchers are "desperately seeking better approaches to creating neutralizing antibodies," adding that the research on Apobec3 might help (Steenhuysen, Reuters Health, 9/4).
An abstract of the study is available online.