Last week, it was announced that an American study on an HIV vaccine would be stopped, after researchers failed to find promising results. But this week, Danish scientists are claiming to be on the brink of discovering a cure for the virus.
Scientists at the Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark are conducting clinical trials on humans using a "novel strategy" that has proven to work in lab tests on human cells.
The trial is different from the one conducted in America, as it forces HIV from "reservoirs" that it forms in DNA cells. This would ideally bring the virus to the surface so the body's own immune system could destroy it.
They have already attempted this in human cells, and it has proven to work. But the clinical trials will discover if it could work in humans.
"The challenge will be getting the patients' immune system to recognize the virus and destroy it. This depends on the strength and sensitivity of individual immune systems," Dr. Ole Sogaard, a senior researcher at Aarhus, said.
So far, the study has fifteen participants. They have been awarded $2.1 million in funding from the Danish Research Council.
Sogaard said the vaccine would work to cure those who are already infected with HIV but would not prevent it.
Many researchers lost hope of a cure when a major study in the United States failed to produce results.
"It's disappointing," Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Health Institutes' National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said. "But there was important information gained."
In the American study, there were 2,504 volunteers, mostly gay men. It started in 2009. Researchers gave half of them placebo shots, while the other half received a two-part experimental vaccine.
The vaccine was supposed to work by giving a "prime-boost," which would make the immune system able to attack the AIDS virus. The second vaccine released a disabled cold virus into the blood stream, which acted as a booster shot to strengthen the immune system's response.
Ideally, the vaccine would train immune cells called T-cells to spot and attack HIV-infected cells in someone's body. They hoped it would be able to prevent the virus or cure people who are already infected.
Unfortunately, the results were not what they had hoped.
There have been multiple failed attempts at creating an AIDS vaccine, but the only one that has shown any sort of progress was a 2009 study in Thailand which used a different type of prime-boost approach.