Sunday, April 7, 2013

The Road to the HIV Vaccine

I thought that this article from the New York Times was worth mentioning. HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus, the virus that leads to AIDS, or Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome) is an incurable disease that plagues more than 34 million people worldwide, and so, naturally, researchers everywhere have been doing everything they can to learn more about the virus and hopefully develop a cure for it. The reason that it's so hard to stop HIV is because it mutates so rapidly. Viruses like those that cause the flu might mutate every year, which is the reason that we require yearly flu shots, but HIV can mutate on the order of mere days.
This new research, led by scientists at Duke University with the aid of researchers from Columbia, Stanford, and the University of Pennsylvania, focuses on the "broadly neutralizing antibodies" that appear in some victims of HIV. Some people develop antibodies that are capable of neutralizing a wide range of HIV, up to 55 percent of strains. This research followed the illness of one African man shortly after he was infected with HIV up to two years later. They were able to see how the "broadly neutralizing antibodies" developed for this man and this gave them many insights into how the process works and how it might be possible to apply this to others who don't naturally develop the antibodies.
We are no where near a cure for HIV yet, but the data collected by these researchers brings us one step closer. One day soon, the suffering of the numerous victims of HIV might be ended. Fingers crossed.

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