Since its emergence in the 1980's, HIV/AIDS has been a prominent point of research for life scientists around the world. With no current cure or vaccine available, scientists receive substantial amounts of funding to study this virus to gain a better understanding of it as well as to produce a vaccine that will combat the virus better than current treatments do, which can only slow and control the virus, but not cure it.
Researchers at the University of Rochester, New York School of Medicine and Dentistry were recently awarded two grants from the National Institutes of Health totaling $3.1 million to continue their research into potential vaccines for the HIV virus.
The New York team of infectious disease researches, led by James J. Kobie, Ph.D., have been working on treating the HIV virus through methods that differ from those studied in previous research. Most treatments for infectious viruses target the T-Cells in the body, which are immune cells that are produced to fight off invading viruses. In the case of the HIV virus, however, T-Cells are actually infected by HIV, and therefore unable to fight off the disease. Creating more T-Cells makes more cells available for HIV to infect.
Instead, the Rochester researchers are focusing on B-Cells, another type of immune cell. B-Cells usually work with T-Cells to produce antibodies that latch on to intruding cells and mark them for destruction. Dr. Kobie and his research team will be researching how B-Cells can produce antibodies without the help of T-Cells in order to stop the creation of extra T-Cells that the HIV virus can infect.
Stephen Dewhurst, Ph.D., vice dean for research in the School of Medicine, explained that "one original and innovative aspect of James’ study is his focus on a specific type of B cell, so-called IgM memory cells, which have been little studied to date, but may play a key role in facilitating immune protection at the tissue sites where HIV is commonly transmitted.”
Further research will be led by Michael C. Keefer, Ph.D., and will analyze antibodies in tissue from the mouth and rectum, where the HIV virus most often enters the body, to see how different vaccines affect the production of antibodies.
“Eliminating the virus where it first comes in contact with the body is critical to the development of an effective vaccine,” explained Keefer, professor in the Department of Medicine, Infectious Diseases. “This research will help us understand, in greater detail than ever before, why some HIV vaccines are partially effective while others are not, and will allow us to identify strategies to include in the development of future HIV vaccines.”
The University of Rochester, NY is a multi-million dollar life science research marketplace with more than 250 centers, institutes and labs. In the 2014 fiscal year, the university received $147.4 million in research funding. Departments at the university receiving substantial portions of this funding include:
- Neurology - $17.8 million
- Internal Medicine and Medicine - $15.3 million
- Pediatrics - $14.7 million
- Public Health and Preventative Medicine - $13.1 million
- Microbiology, Immunology, and Virology - $11.6 million
The 1st Annual BioResearch Product Faire™ Event in Rochester, NY will take place on April 7, 2016. This event provides laboratory supply companies with the opportunity to meet face-to-face with more than 100 active life scientists from the University of Rochester, NY.
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Researchers in Rochester interested in learning about the best and newest tools and technologies available are encouraged to visit the following link to learn more about attending and to pre-register for this free event: