Steve Jobs may have grabbed the most headlines recently with Apple's glimpse of the possible future of computing, but Bill Gates also has his sights set on bettering the world. The Microsoft founder announced that the Gates Foundation would put at least $10 billion toward vaccines that could save the lives of eight million children by 2020, the New York Times reports.
Testing AIDS vaccines can get ethically tricky in human volunteers. That's why MIT has engineered a more "humanized" mouse that has human immune cells, and could become the experimental model of choice involving vaccines for AIDS and other diseases.
The lab mice now display a wide array of human immune cells for the first time. Among the cells are Natural Killer (NK) cells that seek and destroy infected cells, as well as macrophages and dendritic cells that can swallow pathogens or recruit more immune cells to the fight.
While some viruses attack the lungs, and others the blood, HIV attacks the only system that could put up a fight: the immune system itself. The immune system mounts some defense, but after HIV launches its surprise attack, the body simply can't produce enough killer T blood cells to take out the virus.
Now, thanks to researchers at UCLA, it's payback time for the blood cells. A team of scientists have plucked T-cells out of someone infected with HIV, and used them as a template for creating an army of HIV-fighting immune cells out of stem cells. Essentially a genetic vaccine, this technique could be used to copy T-cells designed to fight any virus, opening up the possibility of universal vaccination via stem cell implantation.
In November of last year, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory switched on Roadrunner, the world's fastest computer. IBM and the Department of Energy built the machine to model nuclear explosions, but two new studies, both released today, are proof that the computer's massive power has been at least as devoted to peaceful science as to simulating thermonuclear weapons.
Last month, scientists reported that a clinical trial for an HIV vaccine showed the first-ever success in preventing transmission of the virus. However, a number of HIV researchers believe that the enthusiasm for last month's vaccine results should be dampened in light of a more comprehensive review of the data.
After over 25 years of failed formulas, an HIV vaccine has, for the first time, displayed the ability to confer some immunity against the virus. Deployed in a clinical trial in Thailand, the vaccine managed to prevent infection in a significant minority of volunteers. However, scientists involved in the study caution that they cannot fully explain the success, and that the vaccine only worked in a portion of those who received it.
A decade ago, the bells of doom started to sound for carefree, swinging koalas. A new, HIV-like retrovirus had begun to attack the koala population, decimating its ranks and threatening extinction.
Now, the Australian researchers have launched an effort to stop the spread of the virus before it's too late.
Using special techniques developed to sequence RNA, researchers at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, have published the first complete genome of HIV. Laying bare the complete genetic make up of the virus opens up a new era of research, drastically widens the possible experiments that scientists can perform on the virus, and may significantly accelerate our understanding of how HIV infects humans and evades our immune system.
It has long been known that contracting HIV through oral sex is rare. Klara Hasselrot of Stockholm's Karolinska Institutet recently wrapped up a study--detailed in a forthcoming paper in the international AIDS journal AIDS--that might shed some light on why this is. It provides the first-ever evidence that humans can develop resistance to HIV in their saliva.
At first it sounds like a terrible plan, the kind that results in zombies ruling the Earth. Imagine a killer virus, a bug that mutates so often that it inevitably finds a way to resist every drug. Now, rather than fight its ability to evolve, you enhance it. You speed up the mutation rate, forcing such dramatic genetic change that the virus crashes completely. In the movies, this technique, known as lethal mutagenesis, would create a supergerm, but in real life it's spawning a powerful new class of antiviral drugs.