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HIV vaccine clue found in structure of key infection protein

Two new studies reveal how US scientists managed to uncover the detailed structure of a protein that plays a key role in HIV infection. The findings offer the kind of in-depth understanding that has been missing in the development of successful vaccines against the AIDS virus.

Using protein engineering and two different cutting-edge structural biology imaging techniques, collaborating teams from The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) and Weill Cornell Medical College have revealed a detailed atomic structure of the HIV envelope trimer known as Env.

The new discovery is documented in two studies, both published online in Science this week.

None of the HIV vaccines tested so far has come close to giving enough protection, a failure that is largely due to the challenges posed by Env.

Env is a three-part protein (a trimer) found on the surface of HIV that is critical to understanding how the virus gets into human cells to cause infection.
 
 

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