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Gene Transfer Immunizes Against Monkey HIV Analog 104

Posted by timothy
from the good-to-live-in-the-21st-century dept.
Al writes "Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have immunized monkeys against the simian immunodeficiency virus, the animal model that is closest to HIV. They did so by shuttling a gene into the monkeys' muscles, making the muscle cells produce antibody-like molecules that work against SIV. With both SIV and HIV, the chameleon-like mutability of the virus's surface changes so quickly that most antibodies made by the immune system are soon rendered ineffective. Philip Johnson and colleagues designed DNA sequences for two antibodies known to be effective against SIV. They used antibody-like molecules, called immunoadhesins, in which the functional part of an antibody is fused with a more stable section of another antibody. The same approach could be used to deliver antibodies that are effective against HIV, but which the body doesn't normally produce."
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Gene Transfer Immunizes Against Monkey HIV Analog

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  • by gandhi_2 (1108023) on Tuesday May 19, 2009 @01:00PM (#28013743) Homepage
    ...for all the HIV-analogous-positive monkeys.
    • by flaming error (1041742) on Tuesday May 19, 2009 @01:08PM (#28013887) Journal

      I'm waiting to see what they can do with Monkey HIV Digital.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by interkin3tic (1469267)

      You mean SIV NEGATIVE monkeys who are engaging in unsafe behaviors (unprotected monkey sex, sharing heroin needles, and participating in HIV related research as test subjects.) Vaccines usually don't cure you once infected (rabies is a limited exception), I suppose this one might, but so far it's only been demonstrated to prevent infection, not eliminate after infection.

    • by BaronHethorSamedi (970820) <thebaronsamedi@gmail.com> on Tuesday May 19, 2009 @02:08PM (#28014741)
      You'd think that, but tragically, most HMOs refuse to cover monkeys, and gene transfer therapy is quite simply beyond the means of working class simians.

      Monkeys, write your congressman!
      • by Chris Burke (6130)

        Monkeys, hurl feces at your congressman!

        • Congresschimp?

          Mozilla's might get some flak from feminists groups for this. It highlighted Congresschimp as being spelled incorrectly, so I opened the context menu to find out what spellcheck thought I was trying to say. After 'Congress chimp' and 'Congress-chimp' is 'Congresswomen' and 'Congresswoman'.

        • by sabernet (751826)

          Monkeys, hurl feces at our congressmen!

    • We already have diseases like Scarlet Fever that cause the body to attack itself. In the case of Scarlet Fever, a strep infection (like strep throat) causes the body to attack the the valves in the heart because the protien in the valves is similar to the one on the bacteria.

      Now you want to start bonding things to stuff and seeing what you can get it to attack... Why am I seeing cancer, kidney, and liver problems in the futures of patients treated with this stuff??

      • This time, it actually will be lupus.
      • Now you want to start bonding things to stuff and seeing what you can get it to attack... Why am I seeing cancer, kidney, and liver problems in the futures of patients treated with this stuff??

        And just what do you think antibodies are, anyway? If you still don't like the idea, I've got a one-time offer for you: We'll turn off all your antibodies. No more cancer, kidney, and liver problems for you!

    • Hey I'm at a conference right now, and the last author of the paper presented this work to the audience. (It's the Cold Spring Harbor Retroviruses Meeting, and the presenter was Desrosiers.) The good news here is that there are relatively few antibodies to use for these SIV experiments, and they see beneficial effects. For humans, several broadly neutralizing antibodies have been found that could potentially do a much better job against HIV. So this is a step in the right direction!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 19, 2009 @01:06PM (#28013849)

    It would seem to me like this would maybe work for a year or so, and then there'd be some new strain that these antibodies might not hit.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Shoe Puppet (1557239)
      I imagine once a working immunization exists, it can be adapted to new strains when needed.
    • by moderatorrater (1095745) on Tuesday May 19, 2009 @01:51PM (#28014467)
      Maybe, but at the same time if it works 80% of the time, then the infection rate will go down much further than that and stop the problem almost in its tracks. If another strain comes out that can get around it, then we've still got existing medications and the ability to adapt the shot to the new strain.

      What would be best is if the treatment is cheap enough to administer in Africa (and if it's really effective, than that can be relative since I can see a lot of people and countries giving more money for something this big). Stopping AIDS in Africa could easily be the biggest medical achievement this century.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by geekoid (135745)

        Good luck with that.
        You are talking about a continent where fuck twads A.K.A. Anit-vaccines and woo crowd, have the governments convinced that vaccine are a western evil and the one should use natural remedies, like beating them selves with certain type of plants.
        Hell some places spread the lies that condoms are a western evil.
        Many Islam areas in Africa claims it's all the woman's fault. Of course, they also won't let the women do anything about it, like use a condom.

        Fuck. twads.

        • by Locke2005 (849178) on Tuesday May 19, 2009 @02:48PM (#28015371)
          Worse than that -- some Africans believe that AIDS can be cured by having sex with a virgin. A belief not exactly compatible with halting the spread of the disease. The most effective immunization against HIV is information and education of the entire population. Antivirals don't cure the disease, but they can certainly prevent the taker from infecting others if used in accordance with doctor's orders.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by DJRumpy (1345787)
            That is a common mistake. They state right on the bottle that they do not prevent infection. They reduce the viral load to undetectable levels (beneath the test threshold) but they do not eliminate the virus and they do not prevent infection. There are people who are exposed to the virus who will take a sort of day after regimen to hopefully prevent infection but it's not proven to work (how would you ever get test subjects to agree?)

            This advance is interesting in that it causes the body to produce an an
            • by Locke2005 (849178)
              I think you are getting your Zovirax bottle confused with your HIV anti-viral bottles. The HIV anti-viral bottles say nothing about preventing or not preventing infection. The HIV antiviral cocktail usually prevents passing the disease from mother to child during pregnancy and nursing; in my mind that is a very good thing. Millions of children are born already HIV infected; despite this, some still claim that HIV is God's way of punishing them for their "lifestyle".

              What do you give the man that has everyt
              • by amilo100 (1345883)
                The HIV anti-viral bottles say nothing about preventing or not preventing infection.

                If ARVs are given within 72 to hours (the sooner the better) from exposure to HIV can successfully prevent an HIV infection. This is known as post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Post-exposure_prophylaxis).

                This is usually given in cases of rape or a needle prick or blood spatter to the eye (the last is very dangerous).

                and nursing

                For interest sake, the South African government provide
        • by mutube (981006) on Tuesday May 19, 2009 @04:34PM (#28017065) Homepage

          Hell some places spread the lies that condoms are a western evil.

          'Some places' like Vatican City?

          Do it right kids, use a condom! [brainflower.com]

        • by metlin (258108)

          Well, the Catholic church doesn't help, either.

          Because obviously, dying of AIDS as a pious loser is better than using rubber when you have sex.

        • by amilo100 (1345883)
          You are talking about a continent where fuck twads A.K.A. Anit-vaccines and woo crowd, have the governments convinced

          That is not really the case. The biggest problem is opposition to ARVs and the support of controversial AIDS drugs. A few examples are [virodene](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virodene) (basically an industrial solvent) or [garlic and beetroot](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manto_Tshabalala-Msimang). Some people (e.g. Thabo Mbeki) even questions the link between HIV and AIDS.

          Hell some
  • by neapolitan (1100101) on Tuesday May 19, 2009 @01:10PM (#28013905)

    I spent many years in medical school doing research work on viruses, including work with SIV. This article is very optimistic in some of its summaries. HIV and SIV are qualitatively different in the extent of "hypervariability" in their surface proteins. It is generally accepted to be "easier" to create antibodies to SIV, which has been done for many years.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7865316?ordinalpos=1&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_DiscoveryPanel.Pubmed_Discovery_RA&linkpos=1&log$=relatedarticles&logdbfrom=pubmed [nih.gov]

    The technique described is very interesting, don't get me wrong, and I hope it works. However, there are *already* many techniques that appear to immunize against this HIV analog, which do not work for human HIV. The two are significantly different.

    • by Tanktalus (794810)

      It may be as simple as, "These techniques that work for SIV don't work for HIV. Maybe this new one does work." But, yes, I'd appreciate it if researchists didn't give the false impression that this is the first breakthrough in this area, much like I'd prefer that embryonic-stem-cell articles point out that nearly all breakthroughs with stem cells have come from "adult" stem cells, and that cord-blood stem cells are also known as "adult" stem cells. This kind of transparency would mitigate or eliminate th

    • by feepness (543479) on Tuesday May 19, 2009 @02:11PM (#28014781) Homepage
      Yeah, but at least I can sleep with my monkey without worrying...
      • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        So, Michael Jackson is using the username "feepness" here on Slashdot. Who'd a thunk it?

    • by jeric23 (1154589)

      The technique described is very interesting, don't get me wrong, and I hope it works. However, there are *already* many techniques that appear to immunize against this HIV analog, which do not work for human HIV. The two are significantly different.

      If the H in HIV stands for Human (as in HIV = Human Immunodeficiency Virus), then are humans simian? Are Simians superior to these humble humans? If so, i'd just like state my praising devotion to my Simian feces throwing Overlords.

  • by tim_darklighter (822987) on Tuesday May 19, 2009 @01:12PM (#28013939)
    Does the direct injection of large sums of money also work for simians?
  • ...all of my hard work preparing for the zombie invasion will soon pay off.

  • I don't get it (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Why not inject the antibody directly ? Why do we need the body to produce it naturally ? If production is the concern, why not inject the gene in bacterias and have then produce the antibody.

    There's probably a good reason but I don't know it.

    • Re:I don't get it (Score:4, Informative)

      by Lurker2288 (995635) on Tuesday May 19, 2009 @03:04PM (#28015589)
      Injecting the antibodies directly does neutralize the virus, but unfortunately, the body's immune system recognizes those antibodies as foreign and so mounts an immune response against them (an anti-antibody antibody, if you like), which clears them from the bloodstream. So you'd need regular injections of neutralizing antibodies to maintain a therapeutic concentration in your blood. To quote the paper: "Passive immunization schemes using neutralizing antibodies have protected monkeys from SIV or simian-human immunodeficiency virus (SHIV) challenge infections. Unfortunately, an injection of antibodies every few weeks is neither practical nor cost effective as a large-scale human vaccine approach."
  • by Guppy (12314) on Tuesday May 19, 2009 @01:40PM (#28014283)

    I'm kind of seeing this technique as an end-run around the "decoy" problem. It's been well known for some time that, at least in the general population, the antibody response against HIV tends to get targeted towards features which are non-protective or hyper-mutable.

    However, over time we've come to discover a very small number of patients who have unusual resistance to progression. Some of these possess receptor mutations, some have unusual HLA types, while others were merely infected with what appeared to be somewhat milder variants of the virus.

    However, in a few rare cases, we discovered patients with antibodies that were unusually effective at dealing with HIV's evasions. Often these antibodies had "weird" features -- things like floppy sections of their variable regions that allowed them to reach down to contact hidden epitopes, and other rare features. While they offered hope that an effective antibody response was not impossible, at the same time there really much chance of designing an antigen in such a way to get the general population to produce these unusual variants.

    So, what this work has apparently done, is skip the entire vaccination step. Clone out the sequence for those particularly effective antibody variants, get your target organism to express them directly. However HIV may adapt to the new antibodies, as long as you can find one single person, somewhere in the world with an effective antibody response, it can be duplicated elsewhere.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by OneMadMuppet (1329291)

      floppy sections of their variable regions that allowed them to reach down to contact hidden epitopes

      Best. Euphemism. Ever.

      • by Tokerat (150341)

        floppy sections of their variable regions that allowed them to reach down to contact hidden epitopes

        Best. Euphemism. Ever.

        Indeed! This euphemism is SO good, it has the potential to cure AIDS!

    • there [isn't] really much chance of designing an antigen in such a way to get the general population to produce these unusual variants.

      But that's because we don't really understand these variants, right? Oh, (and this isn't directed at you) pardon me - strengthening or researching the flexibility of the human immune system in general isn't really going to help the bottom line of our pharma industry, is it? Good luck getting research funding for exporing that option.

      Also, my sig seems strangely appropriate for this topic.

  • In just a few years we'll be forced to upgrade to Monkey HIV Digital, which will make Monkey HIV Analog look like crap anyway.

  • I think (Score:2, Insightful)

    by jobjob4 (1558013)
    I think the virus will always mutate
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by CarpetShark (865376)

      Great news for those who can't walk upright... with a hat on.

      This is some sort of reference to George Bush's arguably incomplete ancestral path from monkey to human, right?

  • by Phizzle (1109923) on Tuesday May 19, 2009 @01:54PM (#28014521) Homepage
    Is it safe again to screw the monkeys or not?!
  • by Dr. Manhattan (29720) <sorceror171@gmai l . c om> on Tuesday May 19, 2009 @02:03PM (#28014671) Homepage
    A gene therapy in humans that reawakens a gene we lost [scienceblogs.com]. The kicker? A kind of antibiotic cream can reawaken it without gene therapy!
    • by Locke2005 (849178)
      Sounds promising, but beware of the Law of Unintended Consequences. Intentionally triggering defects in the manufacture of proteins could have lots of nasty side-effects.
      • by Satanboy (253169)

        While true it may have nasty side effects, those living with HIV would most certainly take the chance.

    • by DaFallus (805248)
      Wow! A superpowers drug you can just rub into your skin? You'd think it'd be something you have to freebase...
    • Very interesting, but is the effect permanent (and inheritable)?
  • So this protects Steve Ballmer and his family but what about the rest of us? *ducks chair* INCOMING!
  • Antibodies against HIV are extremely hard to get right. For example, Dan Barouch [google.com] has kept a group of vaccinated monkeys with an SIV/HIV hybrid alive for years... except for one whose virus mutated in just the wrong way. Based on the limited information in the article, it seems like the U Penn study works similarly.

  • Because people should just stop touching the monkeys. They've got problems enough as it is!

  • I was hoping it was this Phillip Johnson [wikipedia.org]. That would have been a real twist.

  • That would be 'analogue' not 'analog'.

    Editing, +1

  • I wonder where they get those extra genes from to transfer? (I didn't RTFA.) I hope not it's frogs - we know how well that worked out for John Hammond. Wait, there's something about a chameleon (I don't RTFS either, sorry). And we know that Suse belongs to Novel, who's in bed with MS (sounds like a soapie yet?), who are against viral licensing. So this is how it works!
  • Because if it works on HIV too, you will see this disappear in the drawers of big medical companies, because it actually heals people instead of keeping them on an expensive lifelong dependence/addiction.

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