Feline AIDS virus providing researchers with pathway to human HIV vaccine

Researchers from the University of Florida and University of California San Francisco believe they are moving closer to developing a vaccine for HIV with the help of peptides from feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), according to the University of Florida.

The researchers found peptides in FIV that trigger an immune response in human T cells capable of fighting AIDS, according to the recently published study in the Journal of Virology.

"Surprisingly, we have found that certain peptides of the feline AIDS virus can work exceptionally well at producing human T cells that fight against HIV," said Janet Yamamoto, professor of retroviral immunology at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine and the study's lead author.

Yamamoto co-discovered FIV, as well as developed the first FIV vaccine.

For the study, researchers isolated T cells from HIV-positive study participants. They then exposed those T cells to peptides from FIV, which produced the reaction that made researchers take note.

"We found that one particular peptide region on FIV activated the patients' T cells to kill the HIV," Yamamoto said.

According to the University of Florida, the study may eventually lead to the development of a T-cell-based vaccine, something that has not previously been utilized to prevent any viral diseases.

"So we are now employing an immune system approach that has not been typically utilized to make a vaccine. The possible use of the cat virus for this vaccine is unique," Yamamoto said.

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