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.
When it comes to eluding detection, HIV and cancer cells are at the top of the class. As such, the few treatments currently available to sufferers of HIV or prostate cancer are generally expensive, often hard to manufacture, and come packaged with a smattering of unpleasant side effects. But Yale researchers have now developed synthetic molecules that help the body recognize HIV and prostate cancer cells as threats, tricking the body into initiating an immune response that it normally would not.
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.
Though the University of Utah in Salt Lake City might not be the first place one would expect to find researchers getting experimental in the bedroom, a team of scientists there have developed a new gel that can quickly shift from liquid to solid, for use in a vaginal condom that more easily protects against both pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.
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.
A new map of the spread of HIV infection in Europe indicates that the virus traveled from major holiday destinations -- Greece, Portugal and Spain -- to northern European countries, New Scientist reports. A virologist determined how the virus evolved by sequencing parts of the virus genome from subjects throughout Europe -- 1,337 people from at least 11 countries. While a number of Mediterranean countries appeared to be sources for the virus, the UK, Netherlands, Italy, Sweden, Norway, Switzerland, Denmark, Germany and Israel appeared to be hubs, through which the virus both came and went.
When it comes to viruses, especially the serious kind that can make you bleed from your eye sockets and wipe out entire villages, most people naturally prefer to keep their distance. Not Nathan Wolfe. The 39-year-old epidemiologist has spent the past 10 years hunting them down in the jungles of Southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. By collecting thousands of blood samples from wild animals and the people who live in close contact with them, Wolfe and his team have uncovered new viruses related to HIV and smallpox. He's even documented how these animal-borne killers leap to humans, with blood serving as a vector in transmitting viruses from slaughtered animals to hunters.