Scientists Find HIV's Achilles Heel
Vaccines should target one area, not the entire virus, new research suggests
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 21, 2011 7:43 AM CDT
Updated Jun 25, 2011 7:00 PM CDT
Scientists think they have found HIV's Achilles heel.   (Shutterstock)

(Newser) – Scientists have made an important breakthrough in HIV research, and we have the stock market to thank. Researchers used random matrix theory, which is also used to analyze stock behavior, to identify a major target for HIV and AIDS drugs—what the Wall Street Journal calls its “Achilles heel.” The research suggests that an HIV vaccine should focus on a few targets, instead of waging a broad war on the virus. Basically, this method is what a small group of patients—who control the virus without medication—known as “elite controllers” do naturally.

HIV is extremely mutable, which can make treatment difficult. But the new research shows that certain HIV sectors don’t usually make multiple mutations—indicating that the virus needs those regions kept intact. If targeted, they would be forced to either mutate, which would disrupt the virus, or not mutate, which would leave them open to further attack. “Elite controllers” already hone in on those sectors naturally, while most patients’ immune systems waste time attacking other parts of the virus that can easily mutate to fend off the attack.