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New insights on a possible AIDS vaccine.

A British scientist stumped AIDS vaccine researchers worldwide four months ago when he announced a startling finding: Macaques inoculated with human cells, but no virus, could fend off infection by the simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV), which causes an AIDS-like disease in monkeys (SN: 11/23/91, p.328).

At the time, some researchers speculated that the human cells had primed the monkeys' immune systems to make a type of antibody that could attack SIV as well as the foreign human cells. Now, experiments performed at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C., rule out such a cross-reaction scenario.

The Duke team, led by Dani P. Bolognesi, reports in the Jan. 17 SCIENCE that blood serum taken from 10 monkeys successfully vaccinated with pieces of SIV did not cause uninfected human cells grown in the laboratory to clump together. Clumping would indicate that the serum contained antibodies against the cells.

However, Bolognesi's group also found that serum taken from 25 monkeys successfully vaccinated with whole, killed SIV did cause lab-cultured human cells to clump. The researchers attribute the clumping to antibodies the monkeys developed against human-cell proteins in the whole-virus vaccine.

Whole SIV viruses are usually grown in labware coated with human cells, whereas SIV pieces, or "subunits," are most often produced by cultures of genetically engineered insect cells.

As part of its study, the Duke team also analyzed serum taken from the first group of monkeys to be completely protected from SIV infection by a vaccine made of SIV subunits. Each of the four monkeys warded off SIV infection after receiving two injections, one consisting of a benign virus carrying a gene for a subunit of SIV, and a second consisting of the subunit itself. The results of this analysis appear in the Jan. 24 SCIENCE.

Bolognesi says his group's work supports the British finding while eliminating one possible explanation for it. He and his colleagues "are very keen," he says, to determine how the human cells protected the British monkeys from SIV infection.

"Once we figure this out, we might be able to capitalize on it," says Bolognesi, by using cell proteins from humans or animals to boost the effectiveness of vaccines made from subunits of the virus that causes AIDS.
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Title Annotation:simian immunodeficiency virus research
Author:Ezzell, C.
Publication:Science News
Date:Feb 1, 1992
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