An international team of researchers is harnessing the immune system to reveal new clues that may help in efforts to produce an HIV vaccine. SFU professor Mark Brockman and co-authors from the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa have identified a connection between infection control and how well antiviral T cells respond to diverse HIV sequences. According to Brockman, HIV adapts to the human immune system by altering its sequences to evade helpful antiviral T cells.
Brockman’s team has developed new laboratory-based methods for identifying antiviral T cells and assessing their ability to recongnise diverse HIV sequences. Since HIV is highly diverse and evolves constantly during untreated infection, the peptide antigen sequence also changes. Matching T cells against the HLA variants and HIV peptide antigens expressed in an individual is a critical step in the routine research process.
The study demonstrates that individual T cells differ widely in their ability to recognize peptide variants and suggests that these differences may be clinically significant in the context of a diverse or rapidly evolving pathogen such as HIV.