Harnessing immune cells' adaptability to design an effective HIV vaccine

In infected individuals, HIV mutates rapidly to escape recognition by immune cells. This process of continuous evolution is the main obstacle to natural immunity and the development of an effective vaccine. A new study published by Cell Press in the March 21 issue of the journal Immunity reveals that the immune system has the capacity to adapt such that it can recognize mutations in HIV. The findings suggest that our immune cells' adaptability could be harnessed to help in the fight against AIDS.

An international collaboration between research groups in France, England, Japan, and Australia discovered that immune cells from certain infected individuals were able to recognize HIV mutants. Researchers found that the immune cells' ability to recognize such mutant forms of the virus was associated with a protective response against HIV. This discovery begs the question: if mutant HIV can be recognized by immune cells, how then does HIV often escape immune detection? The researchers explain that the answer lies in HIV's ability to conceal itself from altogether. It does so by blocking infected cells from breaking down its and from then displaying them on the cells' surface to alert the immune system.

"Using a spectrum of advanced immune profiling techniques, our work illustrates the sophisticated mechanisms that underlie the continuous competition, or 'molecular arms race,' between immune cells and HIV," says senior author Dr. Victor Appay, of Hôpital Pitié-Salpêtrière in Paris. "Overall, our study reveals the intricacies of immune cell efficacy against HIV."

Although immune cells not be able to recognize every mutant HIV, a vaccine that stimulates that recognize certain key mutant forms of the virus may be effective against viral infection and the development of AIDS.

More information: Immunity, Ladell et al.: "A molecular basis for the control of pre-immune escape variants by HIV-specific CD8+ T-cells." dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.immuni.2012.11.021

Related Stories

Exhausted B cells hamper immune response to HIV

date Jul 14, 2008

Recent studies have shown that HIV causes a vigorous and prolonged immune response that eventually leads to the exhaustion of key immune system cells--CD4+ and CD8+ T-cells--that target HIV. These tired cells become less ...

Exhausted B cells fail to fight HIV

date Jul 14, 2008

HIV tires out the cells that produce virus-fighting proteins known as antibodies, according to a human study that will be published online July 14 in the Journal of Experimental Medicine.

How HIV vaccine might have increased odds of infection

date Nov 03, 2008

In September 2007, a phase II HIV-1 vaccine trial was abruptly halted when researchers found that the vaccine may have promoted, rather than prevented, HIV infection. A new study by a team of researchers at the Montpellier ...

Recommended for you

Study links adverse childhood experiences to pediatric asthma

date Apr 22, 2015

Robyn Wing, M.D., an emergency medicine physician at Hasbro Children's Hospital, recently led a study that found children who were exposed to an adverse childhood experience (ACE) were 28 percent more likely to develop asthma. ...

How the immune system fights worm infections

date Apr 22, 2015

The immune system can 'remember' infectious invaders. EPFL scientists now show how immune memory triggers the body's ability to repair tissues damaged during worm infections. The work could lead to better ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.