New Vaccine Against HIV Tested On Volunteers
Seropositive volunteers participated in a new test led by scientists from the Antwerp Institute of Tropical Medicine, Antwerp University Hospital and Antwerp University, involving a new therapeutic vaccine that uses cells extracted from their own body that are charged and reinjected. A better response from the immune system was observed on the tested patients.
A cure for AIDS has not been found yet, but thanks to modern medicine and the use of various antiretroviral drugs, patients can now continue living their lives in a normal way. Unfortunately, if for any reason the treatment is stopped, there is a high risk for the symptoms to relapse. The problem with AIDS is well known by the medical world, consisting in an insufficient response of the body’s own dendritic cells (DCs, or antigen-presenting cells), responsible for transferring the information from the HIV virus to the CD8 cells (cytotoxic T cell) causing the destruction of the infected cells.
Virologists, HIV-physicians and hematologists from Antwerp Institute of Tropical Medicine and Antwerp University Hospital have been trying to solve this problem for several years. They have succeeded in ‘charging’ the dendritic cells of seropositive volunteers with messenger RNA for HIV proteins. The effect of laboratory testing is that ‘charged’ dendritic cells are now able to activate the CD8 cells, or battle cells.
Human testing was the next logical step and the researchers received grants from Belgian, Flemish and French foundations. A total number of 6 seropositive volunteers, patients that have been using the so-called medicine cocktails were tested. The scientists filtered large numbers of dendritic cells from each patient, providing them with the necessary genetic information of the HIV virus. After the process, the dendritic cells were frozen.
The six volunteers received a four time, four week interval, injected dose of their own cultivated dendritic cells. The effect was very promising: the CD8 cells started to recognize the virus, more and more efficiently, after each new dose, without any visible side-effect. The battle against HIV continues, as the capability of the virus to rapidly change its own proteins in order to dodge the CD8 cells is widely known.
The cure for AIDS may not have been discovered yet, but the progress made is encouraging: a new vaccine created with the help of dendritic cells from seropositive patients, with no visible side-effect, that still has a satisfying therapeutic effect shows a lot of promise and represents a possible starting ground for future research.