September 22, 2011
The Collaboration for AIDS Vaccine Discovery, an effort backed by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has awarded $5.5 million to support a project at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine.
Thomas Hope, a professor of cellular and molecular biology at the school, is studying how a vaccine could use the body's mucus as a defense against HIV. He was among the first scientists to see how HIV functions, using a technique that attaches a fluorescent molecule to the virus, and then observing it under a microscope. Hope began studying how HIV enters body tissues.
"We are seeing the virus in the context of tissue, how the virus interacts with the surfaces of the female reproductive tract," Hope said. "We saw [virus] particles stuck above tissues but not entering them. They were getting caught in mucus. We got the idea that antibodies in mucus might be doing something." Hope's research will seek to develop this antibody as a vaccine.
Globally, most HIV transmissions are the result of heterosexual contact. "If you can protect women, then that would sort of stop that cycle and slow down the virus and have a big impact," Hope said.
09.21.2011; Kelly April
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