Scientists hope to use proteins to teach the immune system to battle against the deadly virus
A vaccine for HIV may be on the horizon after US researchers found that it may be possible to train the immune system to attack the virus.
The Dana-Farber Cancer Institute study, published in the journal Medical Immunology, suggested that if cells of healthy people are exposed to HIV proteins it may be possible for their immune systems to learn to defend themselves against the virus and prevent them from developing Aids if they are infected by the HIV virus.
If successful, the research may have found an effective way to prime T-cells - which move around the body and find cells that are infected with a virus and kill it - to protect individuals against HIV proteins.
The researchers used a new approach in HIV/Aids vaccine development based on modern bioinformatics methods and in vitro immunological experiments.
Bioinformatics uses computer analysis of biological data, including experimental results from peer-reviewed literature.
The researchers found that laboratory-grown immune system cells from people who were uninfected with HIV were able to distinguish and respond to key HIV proteins.
In contrast, cells taken from infected individuals were much less responsive to the virus.
It is hoped the research, partly funded by the US National Institutes of Health, will lead to a vaccine for the virus as well as other infectious diseases such as malaria.
The development of a vaccine is considered critical in comprehensive HIV/Aids care and prevention because of the current cost of treatment and the rising number of people suffering from the disease worldwide.
Kendall Smith, editor of Medical Immunology said: "The development of an effective vaccine for HIV capable of preventing infection, or even one capable of preventing Aids, has eluded investigators for 20 years."
About 30 HIV vaccines are currently being trialled, with a handful of private companies engaged in vaccine research.
HIV/Aids patient lobbyists are campaigning for incentives including tax credits to encourage more private sector involvement in vaccine development.
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