NIH Funds Research Network Focused On HIV-infected Youth

The Maryland based biomedical research institute has recently funded for a research network focusing on adolescents’ health and wellbeing and individuals at risk of acquiring HIV or have a history of HIV related illnesses. The National Institute of Health granted $24 million to this project in 2016. The money will be used for three research centers and a data coordinating center that will make up the Adolescent Medicine Trials Network for HIV/AIDS Interventions (ATN).

Bill G Kapogiannis, MD, network co-director and medical officer at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), said that the NIH provided most of the funding for the project. Most new HIV infections occur in young people. Many in this population go a long time before they find out they have HIV and often do not get the care they need.”

Due to the intricate nature of the disease, Dr Kapogiannis exclaimed that patients’ health can be adversely affected as the disease can even pass through fluids via sexual contact on to their partners. This latest project is meant to safeguard the youth who are at a potential risk of contracting the disease, and also to assist them to take part in various research studies and clinical trials that are focused on improving their health and other participants’ health.

The recently funded ATN centers will be the settings for the HIV studies aimed at preventing HIV infection among youth. The centers will also aim to recruit HIV-infected youth for clinical trials to ameliorate and safeguard their health and prevent transmission of the virus to other people.

Dr Sonia Lee, PhD, network co-director and program officer at NICHD, said, “Many at-risk youth are not aware that they need HIV and STI testing or prevention services. ATN studies will focus on helping this population engage with available services and avoid behaviors that increase the risk of HIV infection.”

The investment will be used to fund three leadership hubs and a coordinating center. The network will allow more precise coordinated care as it will be a resource for information sharing. Scientists and researchers within the network will direct research projects by collaborating with other fellow scientists and researchers from other institutes and within the network.

Researchers in each leadership hub will develop associations with clinical sites in urban centers across the United States that have proficiency in conducting research studies and in providing care for HIV-infected youth.

The lead investigators and hub leaders are: Sylvie Naar-King, PhD, Wayne State University, Detroit; Bonita Stanton, PhD, Seton Hall University, South Orange, New Jersey; Jeffrey Parsons, PhD, Hunter College, New York City; Mary Jane Rotheram-Borus, PhD, University of California, Los Angeles; and Lisa Hightow-Weidman, MD, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; and Patrick Sullivan, MD, Emory University, Atlanta.

Dr Michael Hudgens, PhD, and Dr Myra Carpenter, PhD, will be the co-principal investigators for the coordinating center at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. The center will act as the central resource for network communications, bio sample cataloging and data management.

Further funding for the ATN project will be managed by the NIH Office of AIDS Research. Other NIH institutes that will work with the ATN are the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities.

This is not the first time that NIH has worked on HIV research.

HIV Research Has Made A Lot Of Breakthroughs Recently

A recent study published in Science discovered a new cure for combating HIV virus. The study, partially sponsored by NIH, found that majority of people had a specific B cell that could be taught to respond to HIV proteins.

Previous theories supported a notion of the immune system producing specific precursors of human B cells which can be trained to produce antibodies (bnAbs) that can target and kill HIV cells, and progressively train the immune system to fight off potentially all strains of HIV virus.

Training the immune system would involve injecting the blood with several rounds of vaccination. Each round would consist of different strains of HIV virus, that would toughen the immune system, step by step, towards a stronger mechanism enough to successfully fight off HIV.

In this research, scientists conducted modelling experiments to investigate if a bioengineered protein can mimic the HIV envelope protein to produce the bnAbs antibodies. The engineered protein eOD-GT8 was used as an indicator for the precursors in blood to be modified and activated to produce antibodies.

The HIV research is alive and well, and may even help rid of the world once and for all of this virus which quickly spreads and attacks the immune system. HIV can also spread to fetuses in pregnant women, which is something that soon-to-be-mothers should be aware of.

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