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November 08, 2013 11:28:00 PMKeystone meeting in Rio: Breakthroughs and surprises
“Breakthrough” isn’t a term scientists use often when they talk about a finding. But according to co-organizer Rino Rappuoli of Novartis, attendees of the Keystone meeting on Advancing Vaccines in the Genomics Era, which took place from Oct. 31st until Nov. 4 in Rio de Janeiro, heard talks on not just one, but two breakthroughs, both published in Science on the first day of the meeting: The fine structure of a near-native version of the HIV Envelope trimer, and the proof that in principle, it is possible to use a potent neutralizing antibody as a starting point to design a vaccine immunogen, at least for respiratory syncytial virus.

Attendees also heard a lot about advances in systems biology, an emerging branch of biology where researchers try to measure the parameters of biological “systems” in their entirety. Researchers hope that such a comprehensive approach will provide new insights into how vaccines affect the immune system, and one day help predict whether a vaccine candidate is likely to work.
Written by  Andreas von Bubnoff 
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November 04, 2013 10:47:00 AMB cells wage a losing battle against HIV
When a virus enters the body, the immune system launches a barrage of antibodies to stop the infection. In the case of HIV, however, the B cells that make those antibodies fail to generate a normal response, even in the early stages of infection, when concentrations of the virus are at their peak. Research published in the October 27th edition of Nature Immunology sheds some light on a potentially major driver of this dysfunction.
Written by  Guest Blogger 
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October 30, 2013 11:18:00 AMAre HIV reservoirs larger than previously suspected?
The perhaps biggest challenge to curing HIV infection is that the virus hides in latently infected, resting memory CD4+ T cells. These cells harbor integrated HIV DNA—the so-called provirus—in their genome. One strategy to eradicate this HIV reservoir is to activate the latently infected cells so that they give themselves away by producing virus again, and then kill these virus producing cells. Because in vitro assays that activate these latently infected cells cause less than 1% of them to produce virus, researchers used to think that the rest of them harbor nonfunctional proviruses. But a new study suggests that the fraction of latently infected cells that harbor functional provirus may be 60 times larger than previously thought (Cell 155, 540, 2013).
Written by  Andreas von Bubnoff 
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October 18, 2013 05:45:00 PMA new mechanism for HIV control?
Some HIV-infected people can keep virus levels in their blood in check without any treatment. Researchers already have some understanding of how these so-called HIV controllers do that. Now, they have found another possible explanation for what might weaken the virus in HIV controllers. The new finding could also explain why some people who start antiretroviral therapy early can control their infection even after they stop treatment.
Written by  Andreas von Bubnoff 
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October 07, 2013 05:04:00 PMDay One: AIDS Vaccine 2013
So the AIDS Vaccine conference in Barcelona started up today. And Day One went well, despite the forced absence of some leading scientists, owing to the shutdown of the US government over a budget impasse. Anthony Fauci, Director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, participated via pre-recorded video, and spoke to journalists live.
Written by  Unmesh Kher 
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October 04, 2013 10:28:00 AMReplication sans integration?
HIV always seems to find a way around smartest strategies scientists cook up against it, and keeps coming up with surprises, the more researchers study it. Now cure researchers may well find that their understanding of how HIV hides in latently infected cells—the so-called HIV reservoir—may need to be adjusted, if a recent study is to be believed.
Written by  Andreas von Bubnoff 
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September 13, 2013 12:12:00 PMCMV-based vaccine can clear SIV infection in macaques
Could a vaccine be used to functionally cure HIV infection? New evidence from an animal study suggests the strategy may work, though the infection cleared was—of course—of simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV), not HIV.
Written by  Andreas von Bubnoff 
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August 30, 2013 03:40:00 PMNew animal model recapitulates sexual HIV transmission
Most HIV transmissions happen heterosexually, but so far, animal models don’t accurately recapitulate this process. Instead, researchers manually place a droplet of a solution that contains viruses inside the vagina of females. Now, researchers have for the first time modeled heterosexual HIV transmission in a much more accurate way: In mice that actually have sex (Dis. Model. & Mech., 2013; doi: 10.1242/dmm.012617).
Written by  Andreas von Bubnoff 
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August 15, 2013 06:17:00 PMStudy boosts hope for a better malaria vaccine
Spider-Man got his superhuman abilities after being bitten by an irradiated spider. Irradiated mosquitoes aren't quite as powerful, but they might help humanity in another way: the fight against malaria.

A recently published study reveals that all six volunteers who received five vaccinations of a new experimental vaccine containing irradiated noninfectious malaria parasites were protected from controlled malaria infection three weeks after the last vaccination (Science 2013, doi: 10.1126/science.1241800). The vaccine, which was found to be safe in these volunteers, also protected six of nine volunteers who received four doses, while five of six unvaccinated volunteers got infected.
Written by  Andreas von Bubnoff 
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July 29, 2013 12:33:00 PMThe blood bank quandary
In 1982, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began asking groups considered even then at high-risk for AIDS—mainly intravenous drug users and gay men—to refrain from donating blood. The US Food and Drug Administration adopted the recommendations a year later to safeguard the nation’s blood supply. Other countries did the same.

The measure made perfect public health sense at the time and officials were rightly worried that HIV was invading the national blood supply. But are such restrictions needed today?

Written by  Regina McEnery 
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