Researchers at Adelaide University in South Australia claim that they have made significant progress toward the development of a vaccine that could potentially provide protection from HIV and hepatitis C. The researchers indicated that a new form of DNA vaccine could make a cure for HIV and hepatitis C a realistic possibility within five years.
DNA Vaccine Trials
Researcher Eric Gowans, an Adelaide University professor, stated that the vaccine has already yielded promising results in animal studies. Professor Gowans also indicated that human trials are scheduled to begin sometime in 2017. While DNA vaccines seem to offer hope for the future, previous vaccine trials have worked poorly in larger animals and humans. Research studies involving mice, on the other hand, have produced positive results.
The Adelaide research team has developed a protocol that includes a technique that simplifies the vaccination process, resulting in a more effective DNA vaccine. Professor Gowans claims that they have developed a method to deliver the vaccine and stimulate the immune system response of larger animals. Most DNA vaccines target muscle tissue. The Adelaide technique involves the injection of DNA directly into the skin. The efficacy of the DNA vaccination improved because skin has significantly more white blood cells than muscle tissue.
Those all important white blood cells, or dendritic cells, play an essential role in the fight against infection and the vaccination process. To be sure, the purpose of a DNA vaccine is to stimulate the body’s immune system. Targeting dendritic cells, which circulate throughout the body, may hold the key to developing an effective vaccine against HIV and hepatitis C.
That’s why the Adelaide research team decided to develop a technique to indirectly target dendritic blood cells. The vaccine stimulates a small amount of inflammation in the area of the vaccination site to attract the attention of other white blood cells. According to Professor Gowans, other research teams have delivered the vaccine through the skin, but not for the purpose of targeting white blood cells. The vaccine actually kills the targeted cells. The dead cells then induce inflammation to attract more disease fighting white blood cells.
Currently, The DNA vaccine is only intended to treat people already infected with a virus. Professor Gowans believes that the vaccine could be employed to prevent HIV and hepatitis C within five years. The Adelaide research team already holds The patent for the novel DNA vaccine. While Professor Gowans doesn’t want to be overly optimistic about the new vaccination strategy, he and his team of researchers are looking forward to the human clinical trials that are scheduled to begin in 2017. The human trials will involve approximately 40 patients previously infected with hepatitis C.
According to another University of Adelaide vaccine researcher, Dr Branka Grubor-Bauk, it’s necessary to get protection wherever the body first encounters a virus. It’s important to either stop the virus from entering the body or prevent the virus from replicating and spreading. Infected laboratory mice experienced a significant reduction in infection with the assistance of innovative University of Adelaide vaccination strategies. Dr Grubor-Bauk is hopeful that the research team is headed in the right direction. The Adelaide researchers have already dedicated four years to the DNA vaccination project.
Dr Branka Grubor-Bauk also emphasized the importance of future research. The research team is currently searching for funding to expand research efforts and ultimately develop an vaccine that stimulates immune protection throughout the body. The Journal Nature has documented the University of Adelaide research outcomes for developing more effective viral infection vaccines.
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