Rockefeller University and Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center scientists say they used a combination of genetic engineering and forced adaptation in the study.
Since HIV-1 viruses won't replicate in monkey cells, researchers use monkey virus to test potential therapies and vaccines in animals. But therapies and vaccines that are effective on simian immunodeficiency virus don't necessarily translate into human success.
Now Paul Bieniasz, head of the university's Laboratory of Retrovirology, describes how he and colleagues replaced just a few parts of the human virus -- the ones responsible for blocking replication in monkey cells -- with components from SIV.
"Overall, the virus is a mixture of engineering and forced evolution," Bieniasz and the paper's first author, research assistant Theodora Hatziioannou, said. "It sounds simple, in theory, but it took us two years to do. If we can make this virus work in animals the way it works in tissue culture, it will likely change the way AIDS vaccine and therapeutics research is done."
The research appears in the journal Science.