Article brought to you by: Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Understanding nature of HIV 'envelope' crucial in finding vaccine

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
November 3rd, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Key to finding a cure to AIDS, or HIV, the virus that causes AIDS would lie in deconstructing the condition's "Envelope," which is what allows the virus to enter and infect other cells. Researchers have announced a breakthrough in their research which may leads to a vaccine against the disease, still present in developed nations and raging in much of sub-Saharan Africa.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The latest findings provides the most detailed picture yet of the AIDS-causing virus's complex structure. The research also successfully yielded parts of the virus that future vaccines could mimic to elicit an immune response.

About 34 million people worldwide are infected with HIV. While drugs are used to manage many cases, there is currently no vaccine that can prevent new infections.

To date, None of the HIV vaccines tested thus far have come close to providing adequate protection against the virus, due to the challenges posed by the "envelope" protein, which is called Env.

So complex and delicate, scientists have found Env's structure difficult to transform into protein form that is suitable for the imaging technique necessary to study it.

"It tends to fall apart, for example, even when it's on the surface of the virus, so to study it we have to engineer it to be more stable," Professor Andrew Ward, of The Scripps Research Institute explains.

Researchers created a version of Env that has the stability and other properties needed for successful imaging. The version retains virtually all the structures found on Env. Using cutting-edge imaging methods, researchers were then able to study the new Env in minute detail.

In the first study ever of Env, the study revealed the envelope's structure in finer detail than has been reported before.

The study for Science Express revealed how Env assembles and undergoes shape changes during infection, and showed how it compares to envelope proteins on other dangerous viruses, such as flu and Ebola.

"Most of the prior structural studies of this envelope complex focused on individual subunits - but we've needed the structure of the full complex to properly define the sites of vulnerability that could be targeted, for example with a vaccine," Professor Ian Wilson of TSRI said.

A birth foretold: click here to learn more!

Article brought to you by: Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)