University researchers have devised a synthetic assembly ofmolecules that shows promise as an AIDS vaccine.

The macromolecule vaccine, created by scientists fromRockefeller University and New York University medical school,induced specific antibodies against the gp120 portion of theAIDS virus that neutralized the virus in lab cultures, andelicited killer T cells in living animals.

The researchers took the portion of the gp120 coat protein thatis most able to stimulate antibody production -- the principleneutralizing determinant called the V3 loop -- and attached itto a molecular scaffold. The selected sequence of amino acidswithin gp120 also happens to contain a region that induceskiller T cells.

The synthetic scaffold presents multiple copies of the gp120domain, and is then linked to a molecule from E. coli bacteriathat also induces killer T cells. The macromolecular assembly isincorporated with liposomes, fatty spheres that can furtheramplify the effect of the vaccine on the immune system.

The researchers, reporting in the May 1 Proceedings of theNational Academy of Sciences, noted that "our design ofmacromolecular assemblage combines several of the well-tested principles in vaccine design, and our results have shownits effectiveness in small animal models."

The totally synthetic vaccine my prove "safer and moreversatile thaN a whole virus or viral protein vaccine," theresearchers concluded.

There is currently no licensee for the technology.

-- Roberta Friedman, Ph.D. Special to BioWorld

(c) 1997 American Health Consultants. All rights reserved.