Searching For HIV’s Achilles Heel

Why is it so hard to make an HIV vaccine? Dr. John Coffin, who is one of the fathers of modern retrovirology,  Professor of Molecular Biology and Microbiology at Tufts University asks in his insightful blog article, full of humor and historical metaphors. Dr. Coffin proposes that the answer to this question, which has eluded us for the last 25 years, lies in the unusual relationship of this particular virus with its host. He explains variety of ingenious ways HIV is able to evade the immune system and how it has evolved to exploit it for its own benefit.

Despite incredible challenges remaining to find this HIV’s Achilles, Dr. Coffin maintains his optimism for overcoming these: ” Given the obvious need for effective prevention to stem the AIDS pandemic, we must keep trying. Unfortunately, HIV has evolved into a niche whose very properties seem designed to thwart our attempts to turn the immune system against it. As an article of faith, we must believe that there is an Achilles’ heel in the virus’s sugary armor that we can exploit, but we haven’t found it yet.”

Read this excellent article at Small Things considered: the microbe blog.

New evidence of battle between humans and ancient virus

For millennia, humans and viruses have been locked in an evolutionary back-and-forth — one changes to outsmart the other, prompting the second to change and outsmart the first. With retroviruses, which work by inserting themselves into their host’s DNA, the evidence remains in our genes. Last year, researchers at Rockefeller University and the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center brought an ancient retrovirus back to life and showed it could reproduce and infect human cells. Now, the same scientists have looked at the human side of the story and found evidence that our ancestors fought back against that virus with a defense mechanism our bodies still use today. Continue reading “New evidence of battle between humans and ancient virus”