Jun 17, 2019 | Updated: 11:54 AM EDT

Scientists Genetically Engineered An HIV Genome To Develop Potential Vaccine

Mar 30, 2017 07:25 AM EDT

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Researchers In Genetic Surgery At Temple University Develop Technique To Eliminate HIV In Human Cells
(Photo : William Thomas Cain/Getty Images) Researchers have developed a way to utilize weakened HIV as source of potential vaccine.

Vaccinologists are one step closer to developing a vaccine for the dreaded HIV. Researchers from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln said that they engineered a switch in weakened form of HIV. These weakened HIV might, in turn, replicate in a level that is likely to generate an immunity from full-form HIV.

HIV have killed 35 million people over the last three decades and vaccinologists are scrambling for a vaccine, if not the cure. According to chemical and biomolecular engineering associate professor Wei Niu, what they developed is the safest approach reported so far. The vaccine candidate was derived from weakened HIV.

The University of Nebraska team genetically engineered an HIV version that relies on Synthetic amino acid that can't be found in human bodies. Meaning, this HIV lacks the ability to replicate at a level that might reach into a full-blown pathogen.

It has been a practice among vaccinologist to derive vaccines from weakened viruses rather that deactivated versions. These weakened viruses are more dependable in a sense that they give stronger and longer lasting immunity. However, the downside is the risk of the virus to retain the ability to replicate. But with genetically engineered HIV, the switch for replication was "turned off."

What Niu and the Nebraska researchers did is to replace a triple nucleotide sequence in the HIV genetic code. They specifically engineered the transfer-RNA with "useless" edition so that it will stop replication instead. Basically, the technique gave the researchers control over the weakened HIV, PhysOrg reported.

Remember that these engineered HIV rely on synthetic amino acid to replicate. Since the process only allows one cycle of infection, it is not enough to generate immunity. However, introducing the switch inside every HIV genome allows vaccinologist to supply a controlled volume of synthetic amino acid. In the process, multiple cycles of replication can be achieved to make an effective vaccine. Simply said, it is safer to feed HIV with synthetic amino acid rather than natural ones that might get unchecked.

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