Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Clinical trials for the HIV vaccine

"We are very pleased to be expanding this important clinical trial to include the AVRC, a group with which we have worked successfully for several years," noted Mark Newman, PhD, Vice President of Research and Development at GeoVax.

Sonya Heath, MD, the medical director for the study at UAB, said, "New approaches to HIV treatment are critically needed, and an effective therapeutic vaccine would be an important tool in our ongoing efforts to treat people with HIV infection. A vaccine that enhances the body's ability to control HIV and decreases the dependence on antiretroviral drugs would be a major breakthrough."

On Feb 9th, GeoVax Labs (located in Atlanta) declared that they would open a second site for clinical trials of the new HIV vaccine. Though treatments, antiretrovirals, have generally come in the form of antibodies more recent studies have shown that treatments using weakened viruses and HIV proteins can both help treat HIV patients and help prevent the spread of disease. Specifically, developments have been made regarding poxvirus vector-based HIV vaccines.  Attenuated pox virus is combined with HIV-1 protein to create a DNA vaccine that induces immunity to HIV.

This seems promising, as trials so far have indicated that the vaccine has already produced positive results.  However, certain factors should probably be kept in mind while developing and testing the vaccine. First, if a live, attenuated strain of pox is used for the vaccine, the vaccine with help create long-lasting immunity. However, it may also cause complications similar to those of the smallpox vaccine or the oral polio vaccine (where the live vaccine caused disease).

Another technique that, though is not as potent as a viral vaccine, also induces immunity is a DNA based vector.  Perhaps by incorporating both of these strategies, both vial and DNA vectors, a more a potent and hopefully less dangerous vaccine can be developed.  Currently, pox-virus based vectors are being studied in advanced clinical trials, and DNA vectors are still being developed. Together, the two treatments may produce the desired result: an efficient vaccine that induces cellular immunity and antibodies production.


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