New Technique May Help Develop HIV and Hepatitis C Vaccines

Developing HIV and Hepatitis C VaccinesPrevious attempts at creating vaccines for HIV and hepatitis C have been unsuccessful. Now researchers at the University of Adelaide in Australia have applied for a patent based on groundbreaking new research that could aid in the development a new type of DNA vaccine to protect against the HIV and hepatitis C.

Professor Eric Gowans of the Discipline of Surgery at Adelaide has submitted a patent application for a relatively simple but effective technique to stimulate an immune response within the body. Pre-clinical research on the vaccination technique is still underway, but now Prof. Gowans searching for a commercial partner in preparation for the next step in the vaccine creation process.

The new technique uses dendritic cells to activate an immune response. Dendritic cells, also known as accessory cells or messenger cells, act as messengers between the innate and the adaptive immune systems by interacting with T cells and B cells to initiate and shape the adaptive immune response.

States Prof. Gowans:

“There’s been a lot of work done in the past to target the dendritic cells, but this has never been effective until now. What we’ve done is incredibly simple, but often the simple things are the best approach. We’re not targeting the dendritic cells directly – instead, we’ve found an indirect way of getting them to do what we want.”

To utilize the cells for a vaccine, Prof. Gowans and his team have used a protein that causes a small amount of cell death at the point of vaccination.

Explains Prof. Gowans:

“The dead cells are important because they set off danger signals to the body’s immune response. This results in inflammation, and the dendritic cells become activated. Those cells then create an environment in which the vaccination can be successful.”

The technique additionally uses a micro-needle device provided by United States company FluGen Inc. that punctures the skin to a depth of 1.5mm and delivers the vaccine directly into the skin rather than the muscles. Explains Prof. Gowans, “We chose the skin instead of the muscle tissue, which is more common for DNA vaccines, because the skin has a high concentration of dendritic cells.”

DNA vaccines stimulate an immune response within the body, combining with the white blood cells to kill HIV or hepatitis C cells.

Adds Prof. Gowans:

“What we need to do is to target that small population of white blood cells, which circulate generally in the body and, unless the vaccine targets those cells, the vaccine isn’t effective and isn’t efficient in any way. So we’ve developed a strategy that targets these white blood cells in an indirect manner, so we generate a little inflammation and that attracts all these white blood cells to that site of vaccination.”

The new vaccination technique may aid in the development of an HIV vaccine and a hepatitis vaccine as well as a number of other vaccines. The project has thus attracted seed funding from The Hospital Research Foundation, and additional funding from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC).

Concludes Prof. Gowans on the potential of the new vaccination technique, “This technique has worked much better than I anticipated. We’re now ready for a commercial partner to help us take this to the next phase, and we’re in discussions with some potential partners at the moment.”


Adelaide researchers claim significant breakthrough in tackling HIV, hepatitis C:
HIV and hepatitis C vaccines move a step closer with new technique:

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Developing HIV and Hepatitis C Vaccines:

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