Who knew that a vaccine was possible for the defense against HIV and AIDS? Well the scientists at the University of Maryland (Turtles) have been working on one for decades and now the school has been granted millions of dollars in grants from the Gates' Foundation and the United States Army to keep pushing for a solution to one of the world's most deadly mutating diseases.
Scientists have long been frustrated by the AIDS virus' ability to mutate. The virus constantly changes the makeup of the proteins on its surface, making it hard for antibodies to attack the disease. Vaccines developed to battle the disease have proved too weak to meet the task.
Previous research has been tested on monkeys but this new funding will enable the IHV vaccine to move from preclinical work to Phase I and II clinical trials that would include humans.
Some students since the 1990s have been fortunate enough to learn about the replication mechanism of this virus in school. HIV will use your own functioning cells against you, by mimicking your own DNA while destroying your bodily functions. The IHV vaccine contains a protein that is normally hidden within the AIDS virus but exposes itself when the virus attaches to a cell before attacking it. The protein doesn't change, unlike the proteins on the outer coat of the virus.
Basically, here is how it breaks down:
- Fusion of the HIV cell to the host cell surface.
- HIV RNA, reverse transcriptase, integrase, and other viral proteins enter the host cell.
- Viral DNA is formed by reverse transcription.
- Viral DNA is transported across the nucleus and integrates into the host DNA.
- New viral RNA is used as genomic RNA and to make viral proteins.
- New viral RNA and proteins move to cell surface and a new, immature, HIV virus forms.
- The virus matures by protease releasing individual HIV proteins.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have donated $16.8 million to the research, while the Army's Military HIV Research Program has given $2.2 million. The National Institutes of Health and others also have contributed funds. The foundation also awarded the IHV $15 million in 2007 to go toward developing the HIV/AIDS vaccine.
Col. Peter Weina, deputy commander of the Military HIV Research Program stated:
"No one institution is able to do everything well, but by collaborating we can develop the synergies to make a breakthrough we might not be able to do by ourselves."
The researchers will also look at how long the vaccine will last in humans. Researchers have said they're closer than they have ever been to developing a vaccine.
Medications now enable people living with AIDS to manage the disease and survive for many years. But the drugs are expensive and don't cure people. People with HIV also have a much higher risk of developing certain cancers, such as those of the lung, liver, head and neck.
In light of the NBA Playoffs, Ervin "Magic" Johnson is a well know beneficiary of HIV treatment. See his take in this interview with the World Bank HERE.
Sources: National Institute of Health and Institute of Human Virology News Release
Written by Sy Kraft