Aids vaccine is brought a step closer: Injecting HIV genes into patients' cells aims to stimulate body's immune system

 

A RADICAL new approach in medical science has brought the prospect of a vaccine against Aids a step closer.

Conventional vaccines rely on injecting the infective agent itself. The new 'genetic inoculation' technique relies on injecting genes of the Aids virus into the cells of the patient.

The idea, which is similar to gene therapy, is that the body will manufacture important bits of the virus that will stimulate the immune system to produce an effective defence against any future attack from HIV.

Researchers are also investigating methods of producing genetic vaccines against malaria, which is caused by a blood parasite, and cancerous tumours, which could be attacked by a type of genetic therapy.

Scientists in the United States believe the approach is more than a pipedream with the publication today in the science journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the first results of tests of a genetic vaccine on laboratory mice.

David Weiner, an immunologist at the University of Pennsylvania, said the results showed the approach was safe and capable of producing the 'right sort' of immunity. He emphasised, however, that there was a long way to go before declaring an effective Aids vaccine. 'We have only done the initial work. This is not an Aids vaccine.'

Traditional methods of making vaccines use either live viruses, which have been rendered harmless or 'attenuated', or viruses that have been killed yet retain important physical features which the immune system can recognise and produce effective antibodies against. The disadvantage of live, attentuated viruses is that there is always a possibility that they could revert to being harmful. With the Aids virus, which mutates rapidly and causes disease many years after infection, a live, attenuated virus is considered too dangerous to be used.

Most effort has therefore concentrated on using inactivated HIV, or bits of the virus's protein, as a vaccine. One of the many fears of this approach, however, is that such a vaccine would not generate the right sort of immunity because it does not behave like an infective agent.

Dr Weiner said the genetic vaccine he has tested has shown itself to be both safe and capable of generating an effective immune response - one where the all-important 'killer cells' of the immune system are mobilised into an attack.

The prototype vaccine itself is made from the genes of HIV that the virus uses to orchestrate the manufacture of its envelope proteins, which form its outer 'coat'. Dr Weiner and his colleagues injected the genetic material into laboratory mice. The animals then began to make viral proteins under the command of the genes. The results indicated the approach 'is a very important avenue of research', he said.

Dr Weiner said there were plans to take the research further with tests on monkeys. Clinical trials on humans could then be considered, but he could not say when this was likely.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Parts Advisor

£16500 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the leading Mercedes-Ben...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer

£27500 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Telemarketers / Sales - Home Based - OTE £23,500

£19500 - £23500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Experienced B2B Telemarketer wa...

Recruitment Genius: Showroom Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This global company are looking for two Showro...

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor