A new AIDS vaccine trial is about to begin in the US, and this one is a little different - the vaccine has been developed over the past 15 years by Robert Gallo, the scientist who first proved in 1984 that HIV triggered the disease.
The phase I trial will involve 60 volunteers and will simply test the safety and immune responses of the vaccine, so we won't know for a while whether it will be more effective than the other 100+ AIDS vaccines that have been trialled over the past 30 years. But extensive testing has been done in monkeys so far with positive results.
Although there have been some promising vaccine candidates in the past, the challenge with AIDS is that HIV directly infects white blood cells called T-cells, so it literally turns our immune system against us. That means that once the virus has entered a T-cell, it's invisible to the immune system.
The only chance we have to prevent infection is to trigger antibodies against the HIV surface proteins before that happens - something that's been equally difficult considering the fact that the retrovirus can regularly change its viral envelope to hide particular surface proteins.
But Gallo and his team at the Institute of Human Virology in the US think they may have now found a moment when the HIV surface protein, known as gp120, is vulnerable to detection - the moment the virus binds with our bodies' T-cells.
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