A Step Forward Towards HIV vaccine: A Novel 'On/Off' Switch
By engineering an on/off switch into a weakened form of HIV, University of Nebraska-Lincoln researchers have enhanced the safety and effectiveness of a potential vaccine for HIV.
Flipping the switch allows weakened HIV to replicate at a level likely to generate immunity in a host, a recent study University of Nebraska-Lincoln claims. The researchers then used their approach to switch off this replication at will, so it could make its vaccine candidate among the safest yet reported.
This technique gave the team control over the HIV’s replication, but it triggered only one cycle of infection — not enough to yield immunity. The researchers have now managed to embed their genetic switch inside the HIV genome so that each copy of the virus contains the switch and can replicate. And by delivering a consistent supply of amino acids, the team showed that it could kick-start the multiple cycles of replication necessary for an effective vaccine.
“That’s the big milestone,” said Li, professor of biological sciences and a member of the Nebraska Center for Virology. “If that works well, we need to go to the pre-clinical animal model before going to a clinical trial. That’s our goal and roadmap.”
The researchers’ study appeared in the journal ACS Synthetic Biology.