A new medical breakthrough might be the cat’s meow in the fight against HIV.
Researchers from the University of Florida and the University of California, San Francisco have discovered the blood from HIV-infected human subjects is immune to an AIDS disease protein found in cats.
Based on these findings, researchers believe the results could further our understanding of AIDS and even pave way for a future vaccine created from the feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV).
The findings were published in the October issue of the Journal of Virology.
Janet Yamamoto, professor of retroviral immunology at the UF College of Veterinary Medicine and lead author of the study, said the main inspiration for this research was discovering a similar link between both the FIV and HIV viruses.
She said T cells — cells involved with activating the body’s immune system — recognize different peptides that are present in pathogens. Based on the reactions found in the T cell-based activity in FIV vaccines, she said that a reverse effect should occur with the human AIDS disease.
Yamamoto is also the co-discoverer of FIV and the co-inventor of the first commercial FIV vaccine.
“The thing that makes that study interesting is that by looking at the conserved proteins, between the HIV and the FIV, then you can target proteins to make a vaccine the HIV virus cannot live without,” said Joseph Larkin, assistant professor in the UF Department of Microbiology and Cell Science.
According to a UF research news article from Oct. 1, the researchers worked on a T cell-based HIV vaccine that triggers an immune reaction in T cells from humans infected with HIV against the FIV virus.
The researchers isolated T cells from HIV-infected subjects and incubated the cells with different peptides that are important for HIV and FIV and compared their results.
The article further points out that the results also revealed one region on the FIV peptide triggered the T cells of the subjects to attack the HIV.
“It’s very promising,” Larkin said.
Yamamoto said there would be no health risk associated with an HIV vaccine if it were developed from the results because it would be protein-based — there would be no viral genome present in the vaccine to lead to infections.
She estimated that a vaccine should be available for humans within the next seven to eight years.
“Through the understanding of how to create the cat AIDS vaccine,” she said, “we should be able to develop a human AIDS vaccine.”