Everyone has been wanting to know about this news item:
- Scientists say vaccine temporarily brakes HIV
- Therapeutic HIV Vaccine Shows Promise
- Huge Breakthrough In HIV Research Brings Us Closer To A Vaccine
This is the actual paper:
They did something super cool–
- Took viruses out of HIV+ patients.
- Grew up a bunch of virus.
- Heat inactivated the virus (killed it).
- Took dendritic cells out of the same HIV+ patients.
- Fed the DCs the dead virus.
- Put the DCs back into the patients (virus + cells from the same patients– autologous).
The obvious questions, are, of course:
- WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT????
- WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE?????
I swear, it actually makes sense. Dendritic cells are professional antigen presenting cells. The idea goes– The DCs chewed up the dead virus, showed it to other cells in the HIV+ patients immune system, and were like “HERE. YOU GUYS DO SOMETHING ABOUT THIS.”
The DCs were doing this naturally, but not good enough. In the body, they have to be in the right place at the right time with the right kind of HIV (there is some argument over whether DCs take up live HIV and pass it off to target CD4+ T-cells, if they arent infected themselves). With this approach, the scientists got a bunch of different kinds of HIV already present in the patient (NOT a laboratory strain of virus! The viruses that are actually in the patient!), killed it, and got it in the same place as a bunch of DCs.
Once the DCs were primed with the HIV, they were injected back into the patents.
Their immune systems DID do something about HIV!
… For a while.
For a little while, some of the patients (12 of 22) saw a big drop in their viral load. Not as much virus floating around is usually the goal of antiretrovirals, and here is a non-antiretroviral that could do the same trick!
… For a while.
Eventually, all of the patients viral loads rebounded (and not in like, 10 years. they rebounded in a few months). And, the therapy didnt have a beneficial effect on CD4+ T-cell counts.
So, no, the cure for HIV/AIDS is not ‘around the corner’. This study did not ultimately work for the same reason everything we have tried (vaccines and antiretrovirals) havent worked: diversity within the HIV-1 quasispecies.
You throw something at HIV, there is something already present in the population resistant. It might take it a day, it might take it a few months, it might take years, but HIV figures out how to deal with whatever you threw at it, while maintaining viral fitness.
It wasnt very hard for these patients quasispecies to figure out how to deal with the DC therapeutic vaccine.
BUT, like I was saying the other day– We dont need a 100% WIN the first time we do something with HIV. We just need little wins, little steps in the right direction that can be refined and hopefully, maybe, someday, turned into a BIG WIN.
We know now we can do that crazy procedure I numbered up above. We can do it, it doesnt hurt the patients, and it has a brief therapeutic effect. We have to figure out how to do it better. Or make a different approach work first.