16 March 2022

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Moderna mRNA vaccine for HIV begins to be tested on humans

Svetlana Maslova, Hi-tech+

The first phase of clinical trials should show the safety of the vaccine for humans, as well as its potential effectiveness — the production of neutralizing antibodies against HIV. In total, three different vaccines will be tested to determine the most promising strategy for combating the virus.

The pilot phase of clinical trials of the mRNA vaccine against HIV developed by Moderna is starting at ten different universities in the USA. 108 HIV-negative volunteers will take part in it to assess the safety and effectiveness of the technology against the human immunodeficiency virus, writes EurekAlert. Scientists plan to find out whether the immune system will respond to experimental vaccines by producing antibodies and T cells that could fight HIV if a person is ever exposed to the virus in the future.

In total, three different vaccines will be tested. Each of the experimental vaccines encodes different, but very related stabilized proteins: the mRNA vaccine works by delivering a fragment of genetic material that instructs the body to produce a protein fragment of HIV, which the immune system recognizes and remembers, so it can subsequently trigger the necessary response when encountering the pathogen.

"And as soon as the immune cells use the instructions received, the mRNA is quickly destroyed and excreted from the body," the scientists explain. — The application of this technology to HIV vaccine research is a defining moment for this field."

Meanwhile, given that mRNA technology makes it possible to develop vaccines much faster, the results are no less important for a general understanding of the development of this approach against various pathogens. For example, Moderna is already studying the potential of mRNA against herpes simplex virus and smallpox.

Earlier, BioNTech scientists presented the results of clinical trials of an mRNA vaccine against cancer, which is aimed at preventing the recurrence of the disease. Some volunteers registered complete remission.

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