NASHVILLE, Tenn. - More than 30 years have passed since the discovery of the human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, and scientists still struggle to develop a vaccine. However, researchers at Vanderbilt University in Nashville have used an unconventional method to get one step closer. Instead of finding an antibody to kill the virus, they simply created one using a computer program.
Four years ago, Josh Robbins was, literally, the poster boy for clinical trials of the HIV vaccine: HVTN 505.
Robbins told Ivanhoe, “I thought I was doing something amazing for the world.”
The vaccine was considered a failure. Robbins recorded, and posted on YouTube, the moment he was told he was one of 48 participants who became infected with HIV during the study.
Researchers have taken a big step forward by finding what amounts to a needle in a haystack.
A computer graphic showed the structure of an antibody, which looked like a ball of string, attached to the HIV protein in green.
Using a computer program called “Rosetta”, researchers were able to redesign and test it thousands of different ways before finding the one design that made the antibody four times stronger.
Graduate student at Vanderbilt, Jessica Finn, explained, “We could never test a million antibodies in our laboratory, but Rosetta can search through that list of antibodies and pull out candidates.”
One reason HIV has been so hard to destroy is because it is always mutating. Director of the Vanderbilt Vaccine Center, James Crowe, MD, said, “So we redesigned this antibody on the computer so that it would kill more viruses.”
Researchers said the redesigned antibody would soon become another weapon in the fight against HIV.
Dr. Crowe said within a year, the redesigned antibody would likely be added to current trials as a drug to help people already infected with HIV.
Because of his earlier experience, Robbins continued to advocate the need for volunteers for HIV vaccine trials.
BACKGROUND: HIV, also known as the Human Immunodeficiency Virus is an incurable sexually transmitted disease that over time can destroy many of your body’s cells so you can no longer fight off infection. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 50,000 people are infected with HIV annually in the U.S. – specifically, in their latest report, Estimated HIV incidence among adults and adolescents in the United States, 2007–2010*, 47,500 new cases were reported in 2010. At the end of 2010, around 1.1 million people were living with HIV, with 16 percent not aware that they were infected. HIV can affect anyone, and worldwide, about 35.3 million people are living with HIV. Source
TESTING/TREATMENT: HIV can hide for long periods of time so many people may not know they have it and can pass it on. This is why it is important to get checked. If a person believes they have been exposed to HIV, they are to seek testing as soon as possible. Most testing involves a fluid or blood sample. The most common test is the antibody screening test, or immunoassay. Treating HIV involves a combination of drugs to manage the virus in different ways. Lifestyle and diet choices can play an important role in prolonging health; avoiding unpasteurized and raw foods, and eating whole grains and lean protein keep the immune system strong. Immunizations can also help prevent the onset of other viruses that can attack the immune system. Caution around certain animals, such as cats, reptiles and birds can help prevent the spread of toxoplasmosis, salmonella and cryptococcus, respectively.
Source:http://www.aids.gov/hiv-aids-basics/hiv-aids-101/signs-and-symptoms,http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/basics/testing.html, http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hiv-aids/basics/treatment, http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hiv-aids/basics/lifestyle-home-remedies)
NEW TREATMENT: Researchers at Vanderbilt University are one step closer to finding a cure to HIV. They have figured out that instead of finding an antibody to kill the virus, by using a computer program called Rosetta, they can create an antibody to kill the virus. This new design was able to make the antibody to kill the HIV virus four times stronger than it was before. According to James Crowe, MD, Director of the Vanderbilt Vaccine Center, within a year, the redesigned antibody could be added to current trials as a drug to test whether it will help people already infected with HIV. Source: James Crowe, MD
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