Genome Technology Center

A Complex Systems approach to understanding vaccination and immunity in HIV infection.

Miles P. Davenport
Sylvia and Charles Viertel Senior Medical Research Fellow
Centre for Vascular Research
UNSW
Kensington 2052
Australia

A number of potential HIV vaccines are currently being developed and tested in monkeys. The results of these trials have been mixed. On the one hand, vaccination appears unable to prevent initial infection of monkeys. However, in many trials the vaccinated monkeys have controlled the virus in the long term and avoided the complications of AIDS. These vaccine trails provide a rich source of data for understanding and modelling viral-immune dynamics during the course of infection. We have analysed the viral immune dynamics in a number of these trials in order to understand how virus stimulates the immune response, and how the immune response in turn controls viral growth. This analysis suggests that vaccines fail to prevent initial infection because killer T cells do 'too little too late' to affect the early kinetics of viral growth. On the other hand, killer T cells do limit peak viral loads and prevent excessive killing of 'helper' T cells. The combination of experimental and modelling approaches to understanding viral-immune dynamics in HIV provide some novel insights into the mechanisms and limitations of immunity.

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