Microsoft Research today demonstrated how it is seeking for ways to fight the deadly HIV virus by using advanced software typically used to analyse large computer databases, scan complex digital images or filter spam.
At the 12th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections, Microsoft showed how medical researchers can use machine-learning, data-mining and other software technologies to design HIV vaccines by combing through millions of strains of the virus to find its genetic patterns.
Microsoft researchers David Heckerman and Nebojsa Jojic claimed to be the first to use algorithms similar to those in Microsoft's database and anti-spam software to uncover hidden patterns within the genetic mutations of the virus and the immune system of patients.
The researchers, in collaboration with doctors and scientists from the University of Washington in Seattle and Australia's Royal Perth Hospital, plan to exploit these patterns to create improved vaccine designs that pack more HIV-fighting genetic markers into vaccines.
"Microsoft has helped us make a tremendous leap forward in our efforts to halt a virus that has already killed nearly 30 million people worldwide," said Simon Mallal, professor and executive director of the Centre for Clinical Immunology and Biomedical Statistics at Royal Perth Hospital and Murdoch University.
"Microsoft Research's contributions enabled us to filter patient data 10 times faster than any previous research technique we've used, and produced vital clues about the building blocks of a vaccine that were all but impossible to find in our growing stockpile of medical data."
The vaccine designs are currently undergoing laboratory testing at the University of Washington. The tests are being conducted on samples of immune cells taken from HIV-infected patients to determine how effectively the models uncover the appropriate genetic patterns.
Similar tests are planned at the Royal Perth Hospital. Initial results should be available later this year.
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