Brand-New Vaccine Strategy Works Against Herpes, And Potentially HIV


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This medical breakthrough could be what researchers have been looking to find for years, but this was by accident.  Researchers from Yale have created a new technique to vaccinate against genital herpes, but their research may go far beyond herpes.  Using a strategy known as "prime and pull," the body's antibodies have been coaxed into setting up a defensive blockade in tissues that formerly were not conductive to such immune responses.  The researchers may have created a mechanism to prevent sexually transmitted infections.

 

The way most vaccines work is by boosting the bodies immune responses to pathogens, but has been proven difficult for certain infections.  "Memory" T cells are deployed throughout the body whenever a foreign substance is entered into the bloodstream.  They remember how to get rid of certain pathogens so that the next time they are in the body; there is a stronger response against them.

 

However, there are some places in the body that memory T cells don't circulate to.  Likewise, these areas are more inclined to infection.  Some of these areas consist of places like the central nervous system, intestines, and most importantly for this case, the female genital tract.

 

The Prime and Pull method builds cells immunity to certain pathogens then topically applied to an area where they do not normally exist.  The cells eventually built up residence in those areas on tests in mice.  The cells have shown increased immunity towards herpes by putting up a wall between the herpes simplex virus and the cells they infect.  This technique could be used to combat other infectious diseases that enter the body such as HIV.  This is not a cure, but more so an inhibitor

 

In fact, prime and pull could go even further. "The prime and pull may not be restricted to fighting infections," lead researcher Akiko Iwasaki told PopSci via email. "One can imagine prime and pulling T cells into solid tumors to facilitate T cell based tumor killing."

 

Although this is not a cure for those that already have viruses, this could be a way to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted infections in the future.  Sitting here at Nittanyville bored out of my mind I stumbled across this article.  This got my mind thinking.  Imagine the number of lives we could spare in the future.  The prevention of STD's is great, but reading that this could be a defense against cancerous tumors blew my mind.  If we could place these memory T cells into cancerous tumors to eat at the tumor, this could be this biggest breakthrough in medicine yet.

2 Comments

This sounds great but my concern is that the body has a reason for not having moreMemory T cells in certain regions of the body. Also, when it comes to eating awat at cancerous tumors, I'd have to wait and see the research for this new discovery. My fear for that is the T cells eating away at more than just the cancer, and going into organs that the body actually need to survive. Basically, I'm picturing either hyper active T cells killing everything or over powered by vaccine disease T cells, according to my understanding of the immune system via nobelprize.org.

Thanks for writing on this topic, I found it very interesting and read some more online about it. I was particularly interested in the second part of the strategy; how they get the activated T-cells to the target areas. I found that it was through topical application (Nature article intro gives a basic explanation : http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/vaop/ncurrent/abs/nature11522.html).

According to the article, the strategy is targeted to work on the "The female genital tract, which is a portal of entry for sexually transmitted infections". I would be very interested to see if this method can be used with male sexual organs to immunize against these diseases.

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