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HIV studies in animals show progress

A team at Scripps Research, California, USA, has developed a vaccine for HIV (a virus that can lead to AIDS if left untreated) which improved the ability of mice, rabbits and monkeys to block the virus.

The US National Institutes of Health has now agreed to sponsor a clinical trial for the vaccine.

The high response to the vaccine in the animals was due to the group’s approach of shortening the sugar molecules that cover the virus’s surface molecule (Env).

Dr Jiang Zhu at Scripps said: “With this design we appear to have solved a big piece of the HIV vaccine puzzle.”

Meanwhile, a study at the University of Cambridge, UK, has found that a drug currently used for HIV, maraviroc, could be repurposed to treat Huntington’s disease and dementia.

Using genetically modified mice that mimic human disease, the researchers identified a ‘switch’ on the surface of cells that impairs the brain’s ability to get rid of toxic proteins – protein build-up in the brain is a key feature of many neurodegenerative diseases.

Maraviroc targets the same switch to prevent HIV from entering cells, so the drug was able to significantly reduce the amount of protein build-up in the brains of mice models of Huntington’s and dementia.


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