9-21-2011Johns Hopkins have broken AIDs code
Scientists say they have found a way to disarm the AIDS virus in research that could lead to a vaccine.
David Graham is a molecular biologist at The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland.
“By stealing cholesterol from the envelope of the virus, we can neutralize the subversion," said Graham. "We’ve broken the code; we can shut down the type of interference that HIV is having on the immune system.”
The cholesterol used by HIV, Graham notes, is not the same cholesterol that circulates in blood and causes coronary artery disease. He says the AIDS virus incorporates cholesterol into its membrane from plasmacytoid dendritic cells or pDCs - the first immune cells to recognize the virus. The pDC cells normally signal the adaptive part of the immune system - T cells - to form a more specific, long-lasting response.
Graham, along with his colleagues at several European universities, found a way to disable HIV’s cholesterol membrane so it cannot corrupt the first-responder cells, clearing the way for T-cells to fight the HIV infection, or pathogen, more effectively.
“The immune system now treated it more like a regular pathogen that you would encounter, and we would have normal immune responses that would result in protection," said Graham.
So far, research has been conducted only in the laboratory. But Graham says he hopes studies in animals and humans will eventually lead to an AIDS vaccine.
The research, funded by Britain’s Wellcome Trust and the U.S. National Institutes of Health, is described in an article published in the journal Blood.