New York: Researchers, including one of an Indian-origin, have identified a protein that could help improve the efficacy of vaccines against human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and prevent transmission of the virus.
A protein called Polyglutamine-binding protein 1 (PQBP1) acts as a front-line sensor to recognise HIV and initiates an immune response to the virus, the results showed.
When the protein encounters the virus, it starts a programme that triggers an overall protective environment against infection and enhances the production of virus-specific antibodies.
"Vaccines work by teaching the immune system to react by mimicking a natural infection," said lead author Sunnie Yoh, post-doctoral fellow in the lab of Sumit Chanda, director of the immunity and pathogenesis program at Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute in the US.
"Current approaches to HIV vaccine development have so far yielded little fruit, partly because of the lack of an effective vaccine adjuvant. Adjuvants promote a robust immune response to vaccines and are critical to eliciting long-lasting immunity," Chanda said.
"Our study identifies a promising new target for a vaccine adjuvant that could advance the development of HIV vaccines and prevent infection."
Vaccines against HIV are being developed, and they are in various stages of clinical trial but at present none has proven effective, according to the World health Organisation (WHO).
Designing a drug that mimics the interface between HIV and PQBP1 would allow an HIV vaccine to more effectively re-create an immune environment that mirrors real infection, Yoh said.
The research was published online in the journal Cell.