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J Invest Dermatol. 2005 Jan;124(1):160-9.

DermaVir: a novel topical vaccine for HIV/AIDS.

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Research Institute for Genetic and Human Therapy (RIGHT), Washington, DC 20007, USA.


Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) vaccines have the potential to improve antiretroviral drug treatment by inducing cytotoxic killing of HIV-infected cells. Prophylactic vaccines utilize new antigens to initiate immunity; however, in HIV-infected individuals the load of viral antigen is not the limiting factor for the restoration of immune responses. Here we describe a novel immunization strategy with DermaVir that improves viral antigen presentation using dendritic cells (DC). DermaVir contains a distinctive plasmid DNA expressing all HIV proteins except integrase to induce immune responses with broad specificity. The DNA is formulated to a mannosilated particle to target antigen-presenting cells and to protect the DNA from intracellular degradation. After topical application, DermaVir-transduced cells migrate from the skin to the draining lymph node and interdigitate as DermaVir-expressing, antigen-presenting DC. We compared the immunogenicity of topical and ex vivo DC-based DermaVir vaccinations in naive rhesus macaques. Both vaccinations induced simian immunodeficiency virus-specific CD4 helper and CD8 memory T cells detected by an in vivo skin test and an in vitro intracellular cytokine-based assay. Topical DermaVir vaccination represents an improvement upon existing ex vivo DC-based immunization technologies and may provide a new therapeutic option for HIV-infected patients.

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