Ronald Montelaro, a professor of molecular genetics and biochemistry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, has received a $90,000 grant to study how sugar chains that surround HIV may be thwarting attempts to create an effective AIDS vaccine. Montelaro will examine whether the chains of sugars in the outer envelope of the virus act as a barrier against immune responses that attempt to target and destroy the virus.
"Most of the AIDS vaccines that have been created thus far have failed to stimulate an ideal immune response," Montelaro said. "Our graduate student, Surojit Sarkar, theorized that these vaccines may be rendered ineffective by the dense shield of sugar chains that surround the virus." Montelaro's research will look for weaknesses in the sugar chains and for ways to remove or penetrate the sugar barriers so that the body's immune responses to HIV may be more easily able to kill the invading virus.