An article published in an online issue of Nature Medicine by researchers in Rene Descartes University has reported a stunning discovery of a bold new type of vaccine which may one day let people quit their AIDS drugs. The study which was carried out on monkeys showed promising results, and if confirmed and adapted in humans may signal a major new therapeutic approach to HIV.
The researchers reported that the new vaccine uses a type of cell, commonly found in the skin, called dendritic cells or DCs. The main job of DCs is to grab foreign substances and turn them in to the immune system, which triggers a chain reaction that starts a powerful immune attack on similar substances. In the study, the researchers injected these cells (i.e. DCs) that were loaded with a killed AIDS virus into monkeys, infected with the same virus. The monkeys which would quickly die in normal conditions, were alive and did not get sick - at least for the 34-week study period, when they were given the vaccine treatment.
Most vaccines make the immune system do one of two things: make antibodies or make germ-killing cells while the DC vaccine elicited both kinds of immune responses. Researchers claim that these therapeutic approaches which used inactivated-virus-loaded DC vaccines to generate strong HIV-specific cellular and antibody immunities may result in long-term immunological control of chronic HIV disease. However, a major question which needs to be resolved is that of how long the vaccine-stimulated immune responses will keep the AIDS virus under control.